I acknowledge the presence the Attorney General and Minister Independence Mission Implementation Hon. Ezekiel Masatt, Ministers and Members of the Bougainville House of Representatives and the Bougainville Administration.
I also extend a very warm welcome to the newly sworn in Commissioners of the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission.
We are all gathered here today because of one common ideal that unites us and that is our commitment to the Bougainville Independence Mission. This mission calls upon us to prepare the way for an Independent Bougainville.
As patriots we are morally obligated to serve this cause with loyalty, honesty and commitment. It is a vocation that we all must undertake to ensure that we fulfill the felt needs and aspirations of our people as a means to empowering them socially, economically and politically.
As a people who have suffered so much in the last fifty years we are finally on the path to freedom. In the past we watched passively as our resources were plundered and our rights were taken away from us. We suffered discrimination on our own lands, we endured political tyranny by a government sworn to protect us and we had this very same government wage war on our people.
However, these challenges have made us a stronger people with a purpose and that is attaining political independence for Bougainville. This purpose is strong within us, it inspires to be patriots and it unites us as a people. The constitution of any country is made up of laws that are the guiding principles of governance within a nation and how power is exercised and shared for the benefit of its people.
As the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Committee meets for the very first time I believe we must embrace certain values that will form the core foundations of the Constitution of the Independent State of Bougainville. Our new Constitution must promote democracy, rule of law, social justice, equality and respect.
It must also protect the rights of the people of Bougainville, our resources and our cultural heritage. Democracy is the hallmark of freedom and civil liberties.
It is an ideal that exclusively promotes power that rests with the people and a government that shall be formed of the people, by the people and for the people. Ideally this is the form of government that we have inherited and have now adopted. Our constitution must ensure the structures of our government is robust and promotes good governance and accountability.
The Constitution must empower the three arms of government; the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary. These are important functions in any democracy to ensure a balance of power. It must also ensure that our government’s political capacity is able to drive economic and social development and deliver equitable services. It must allow our people to be active participants of change and development on Bougainville.
Nevertheless, we must be reminded of our Christian and Cultural values. We must not lose sight of them in the face of liberalism. These values are part of our identity and essential to our moral and ethical standards that enables our society to exist in harmony.
Drawing from the lessons from the past, our Constitution must protect the rights of indigenous owners of the land and their resources. It must guarantee resource owner interests are protected to ensure that the government and the people benefit from any form of development and resource exploitation that may eventuate.
Benefit sharing must be fair to our people in other words; we must adopt a RIGHTS BEFORE RESOURCES approach to development and this must be enshrined within our constitution for the protection of our natural resources and our people’s rights. When we look towards the exploitation of our resources we must also consider the impact our actions to introduce development will have on the environment.
We must have a constitution that recognizes the importance of the natural environment as it remains a very important source of our people’s livelihood for many hundreds of years. This relationship with nature has not evolved so much that our people still depend on their environment for food, building materials and medicinal uses.
The constitution must look at protecting the marine environment and the various ecosystems that are in abundance on Bougainville.
At this juncture I would like to stress on an important part of creating this new Constitution for an Independent Bougainville. Never has a single ethnic group of people been marginalized in Papua New Guinea as the people of Bougainville. We suffered harshly at the hands of the Colonial Powers and then we suffered the same fate with the Government of Papua New Guinea.
From these experiences we must ensure that we have a strong constitution that guarantees the civil rights of our people. We must enjoy the freedom to express ourselves, we must enjoy the freedom of movement, we must enjoy the freedom to be educated and we must enjoy the privilege to actively participate in development and the democratic process.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are creating history as we speak. We are going to create a homegrown constitution for the government and the people of Bougainville. It will be based foremost on protecting the people’s rights and empowering the government to efficiently and equitably distribute services to the people.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all our commissioners and the technical team who will be working with the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission.
Your appointment by the Bougainville Executive Council recognizes you role as an important stakeholder on Bougainville. I wish all the very best in carrying out your duties as Commissioners of the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission.
I stand here today as President of Bougainville to assure each and every one of you that never will a Bougainville government raise its hand on its own people and wage a genocidal war on them. It was by the grace of God that we survived the Bougainville Civil War and came out victorious.
By the same token we will prevail as a people and as an Independent nation.
Let us learn from the past and create a better future for Bougainville. God Bless you all and God Bless Bougainville.
Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR
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