Move to postpone Bougainville referendum
8 February, 2019, 11:23 am
BUKA, 08 FEBRUARY 2019 (POST COURIER) – The Bougainville referendum date set for June this year is likely to be moved to October, the Post-Courier has been reliably informed.
It is understood that the recently established Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) intends to write to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and ABG President John Momis requesting an extension of the date.
The BRC is chaired by former Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern with membership including former chief secretary to government Robert Igara and Dr Thomas Webster intends to write to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and ABG President John Momis.
It is understood this is based on the BRC’s non-existent structure and financial capacity to truly set its house in order and complete its official report to the respective shareholders on the way forward.
The commission believes given the proposed deferred time frame, they would be able to deal with all the critical issues required to implement the referendum as legally required.
It is understood so far the BRC has not been properly or adequately resourced to undertake its legal mandate as required by law.
As such Prime Minister O’Neill and President Momis will be formally sought to give credence to and sanction their proposed deferral, but which will still fall within the official legal time frame set to conduct the referendum.
The matter is also likely to take priority at the coming Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting between the State and the ABG in two weeks time.
However, a definite date for the JSB meeting has not yet been confirmed or announced. The requirements for the conduct of the referendum are contained in the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution.
They provide that the referendum shall be held on a date agreed to by the two governments, no earlier than 10 years and no later than 15 years after the establishment of the ABG.
As the ABG was established on June 15, 2005, the referendum must be held within a five-year window between June 2015 and June 2020.
It is understood the required level of awareness on the two questions of greater autonomy and independence, which will be voted on, have not yet been fully explained and properly understood. It was explained to the Post-Courier that the credibility of the results from the referendum rests critically on it being administered well.
This includes the people of Bougainville being provided all the information and the opportunity to make their own choices without fear or favour.
These requirements moreover are consistent with internationally agreed principles that PNG is signatory to, for the conduct of a free, fair and transparent voting process.