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Buka, BOUGAINVILLE – September 30, 2020: 1:04pm (RNZ PACIFIC): Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape says he is committed to immediately empowering the autonomous region of Bougainville.

His statement came at the swearing-in of new Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama on Tuesday.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape addresses a business discussion in Port Moresby, January 2020. Photo: PNG PM Media Unit

Marape said this commitment could be seen in the full transfer of Bougainville Copper Limited shares to the local government and landowners; the transfer of revenue raising powers in the areas of mining, fisheries, forestry and agriculture; and the channelling of 10 percent of Small Medium Enterprise funds to the region.

The Prime Minister said he was waiting for the election process to be complete so he could ramp up support to Bougainville which would include empowering the region when it came to resource harvest.

Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

“This will enable my version of economic independence for Bougainville as an important precursor to the next phase of 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, and that is dealing with the results of the referendum when 97.7 percent voted for political independence,” Marape said.

Other ongoing measures he highlighted included the restoration of all of outstanding National Government commitments since 2001, including clearing legacies; having a ‘one line’ budget allocation where Bougainville was not reporting to Waigani Public Service but to National Parliament; the transfer of all public service functions including revenue generation back to Bougainville; and the allowance for Bougainville to interface with other partners within the ambit of PNG’s foreign policy.

Marape said it had been a long road to the restoration and maintenance of peace and prosperity for Bougainville and PNG.

“I am fully committed to working with the President-elect, Hon. Ishmael Toroama in finding a path that is truly a blessing for both PNG and Bougainville.”

During his trip to Bougainville, Marape was also scheduled to visit a number of road sealing projects.

A $US4.2 million grant for the new government to boost the public service was also to be presented.

Inauguration of Ismael Toroama as Bougainville President Photo: Bougainville Electoral Commission

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