Ms Paul believes an independent Bougainville is a “win-win situation” benefiting the region and PNG if “we all come together”. The overwhelming majority in Bougainville support independence – not only at the recent referendum when 97 per cent voted in favour, but also since before PNG statehood. She acknowledges the concerns of Bougainville’s neighbours and the PNG national government, but sees the issues as hurdles, not barriers.
She argues Bougainville has the human and natural resources to be successful. Even though many challenges lie ahead, the benefits are great and the independence goal achievable.
Geraldine Paul is the Bougainville Minister for Primary Industries, Marine Resources and Forestry. She is one of five women elected to Bougainville’s parliament and a member of cabinet. Before joining politics, she worked to re-establish agricultural livelihoods and industries after the Bougainville conflict that saw many lives and livelihoods lost. She promotes women’s economic empowerment and community development as a member of the Bougainville Family and Sexual Violence Action Committee.