8 Feb 2019

Moves afoot to postpone Bougainville referendum

4:50 pm on 8 February 2019

Bougainville's independence referendum date set for June this year is reportedly likely to be postponed to October.

Bougainville president John Momis, left, and former PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill sign the agreement on the question for the independence referendum.

Bougainville government president John Momis, left, and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill sign the agreement on the question for the independence referendum. Photo: Joseph Nobetau

The Post-Courier reported that the Bougainville Referendum Commission intends to request an extension on the date.

It is expected to write to Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and Bougainville President John Momis on this request.

The recently established Commission is charged with preparing the autonomous PNG region for a vote on possible independence this year.

Chaired by former Ireland Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the commission has not been adequately financed or resourced to be able to implement the referendum.

The commission has indicated that its proposed deferred date would allow it to deal with all critical issues required to implement the referendum as legally required.

As such PNG's Prime Minister and Bougainville's President will be formally asked to give credence to and sanction the proposed deferral.

An October referendum would still fall within the official legal time frame set to conduct the referendum, namely by June 2020.

The matter is also likely to take priority at the coming Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting between the PNG state and the Autonomous Bougainville Government in two weeks time.

However, a definite date for the JSB meeting has not yet been confirmed or announced.

The Post Courier reports that 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.

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