15 Jun 2018

Bougainville vote date could be put back - MP

1:55 pm on 15 June 2018

It is possible the Bougainville referendum will be held later than June next year, which has been the time referred to by Bougainville officials for some months.

A tentative date of June 15th 2019 has been set for a referendum on possible independence in the Autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville.

Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The referendum is to give Bougainvilleans a say in whether the autonomous Papua New Guinea region should become independent.

The deputy leader of PNG's opposition and MP for southern Bougainville, Timothy Masiu, said he expected an official date to be set when PNG's government and the Bougainville regional government meet as the Joint Supervisory Board.

That meeting was to be held yesterday but has been delayed another two weeks by PNG's government.

Mr Masiu said if the vote is to be held in June next year there is not much time left - a matter that was raised just a week ago in a referendum conference in Port Moresby.

"Of course the Bougainville Peace Agreement says the referendum should take place 15 years after the ABG has been established. We are still in the framework so there is no harm if we postpone by a few months or that kind of thing."

Fifteen years after the establishment of the autonomous Bougainville government would be 2020, but Bougainville had previously settled on 2019 so that the referendum vote did not clash with the ABG elections.'

Bougainville aims to avoid failings of earlier referenda

Meanwhile, the secretary of Bougainville's Department of Peace Agreement Implementation said the region needs to take a different road to avoid the conflict other countries have experienced.

James Tanis says South Sudan, Timor Leste, the UK, and last year, Catalonia in Spain, all held referendums and encountered problems afterwards and Bougainville wants to avoid their mistakes.

The Post Courier reported him saying his departments wants to see the referendum not only conducted in a safe and peaceful way, but for peace to continue after the result is known.

Tanis said the Bougainville peace agreement, with its promise of referendum, marked the end of conflict in Bougainville.

He said the agreement ended the war and the next step is to support people with service delivery which will make a difference to people's lives with strong health, education and infrastructure services.

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