Bougainville Constitution’s first draft ready

Mar 17, 2024 | Blog, News

Two years after commencing consultations, the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission has unveiled its first draft of a homegrown constitution, marking a significant step towards the region’s anticipated independence from Papua New Guinea within the next three years. This milestone underscores Bougainville’s determination to chart its own course, with the drafting of a constitution serving as a crucial component of the independence process.

President Ishmael Toroama.

The draft constitution is the culmination of extensive efforts by 40 commissioners who traversed Bougainville to gather the perspectives of its people. These commissioners, representing diverse segments of society including women, youth, former combatants, and church representatives, played a pivotal role in shaping the document. Their data-gathering endeavours laid the foundation for the draft constitution, which was compiled by Australian National University professor Anthony Regan and Katy le Roy.

President Ishmael Toroama welcomed the release of the draft constitution, acknowledging its significance while emphasising the need for further refinement. The forthcoming final draft, expected next month, will undergo additional scrutiny and fine-tuning to ensure its alignment with Bougainville’s aspirations and values.

In November last year, President Toroama embarked on a diplomatic mission to Washington, D.C., seeking support for Bougainville’s independence. Toroama’s visit underscored the region’s quest for self-determination and highlighted the historical and geopolitical complexities surrounding Bougainville’s aspirations.

Bougainville’s journey toward independence is deeply rooted in its history, characterised by colonial legacies, resource disputes, and protracted conflicts. The region’s desire for autonomy dates back to the colonial era when Bougainvilleans sought to rectify historical injustices and assert their identity. Tensions escalated in the late 1960s with the development of the Panguna Mine, a catalyst for Bougainville’s separatist sentiments and eventual armed conflict.

The Panguna mine in Bougainville is one of the biggest copper reserves.

President Toroama, a former commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, symbolises the region’s resilience and determination. His advocacy for independence reflects decades of struggle and sacrifice endured by Bougainvilleans, who overwhelmingly voted in favour of independence in the 2019 referendum.

However, the path to independence is fraught with challenges, including economic dependencies, political uncertainties, and geopolitical considerations. Bougainville’s aspirations must navigate complex dynamics, balancing local aspirations with national interests and international pressures.

President Toroama’s diplomatic outreach to the United States underscores Bougainville’s strategic engagement with global partners. The first draft of the constitution is another step in the territory’s march toward an independent state.