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There will be 554 scrutineers and 95 observers engaged during the referendum polling starting next week on Bougainville, the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) has detailed.
This week, the BRC completed formal briefings and accreditation of hundreds of observers and scrutineers in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
In Buin, Arawa and Buka, 95 observers and 554 scrutineers were briefed to ensure they understood their role in supporting a transparent and credible referendum.
Each observer and scrutineer received a BRC referendum handbook explaining their role and the polling, scrutiny and counting processes, signed a code of conduct, and received special BRC coloured observer or scrutineer vest and ID cards to be easily identified during polling and at the counting centre.
Kevin Kaparika from Siwai, South Bougainville said his South Veterans Group had wanted to participate as scrutineers because the referendum was a one-off opportunity to decide Bougainville’s political future.
“We will monitor the polling and count process well so that a we get a good result,” Kaparika said
Christabelle Mamui, a second-year student from UPNG representing the Port Moresby Bougainville Association said her group had wanted to participate as scrutineers to ensure a successful and peaceful referendum for all Bougainvilleans and avoid another conflict.
Chief referendum officer Mauricio Claudio said international and local observers, as well as scrutineers appointed by recognised interest groups and the two governments, all play important parts in ensuring that the referendum is conducted to an internationally recognised standard.
“When we say free and fair, this must be assessed by all stakeholders to the process, so that all stakeholders view the result as the true views of the people of Bougainville,” Claudio said.
Claudio said the BRC understood that observers, scrutineers would all face the same logistical and communication challenges of the BRC in conducting the referendum.
“Poor roads and transport connections, mobile phone black spots, remote island atolls and tropical weather. For that reason, we appreciate the commitment of each individual and every organisation or group that you represent playing your part in this historic step in the Bougainville Peace process. On behalf of all Commissioners we wish you all the best.”
By law, in a referendum scrutineers take the role of candidate agents during the polling and counting process only.
“Under the laws, scrutineers have no formal role in campaigning, instead, like observers and the media, they help the BRC to ensure that polling, counting and therefore the referendum result, is credible.”
Scrutineers are different to observers because they can ask specific questions to voters through the presiding officer during the polling and raise queries and challenges during the counting process – which observers cannot. These questions and the process for asking them are set out in the Organic Law.
The BRC is not providing payment to support to either scrutineers or observers undertake their referendum activities.
“There must be a complete separation between the BRC and observers and scrutineers – so providing payments would be a conflict of interest.”
The commission has accredited scrutineers from:
* Central Veterans
*Kieta Youth District Group
*Port Moresby Bougainville Association
*Domaakung Wida 7 Clans Association
*Autonomous Bougainville Government scrutineers.
The following groups were approved by BRC but did not attend accreditation briefings:
*Ontongi Business Group
*Tinputz Referendum RIG
*Mother Mary Evangelism Ministry
Claudio said he was extremely pleased with the number of groups engaged in the referendum.
“We are delighted at the engagement in the historic Bougainville Referendum by both the local and international community. Bougainville can and should be proud of achieving 18 years of peace in the lead up to this vote, and the recognition of the importance of the vote by many.”.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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