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Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission Bertie Ahern ended his first awareness engagement in Bougainville last Thursday reassuring Bougainvilleans that the BRC was committed to its role in delivering a credible referendum.
Ahern led a BRC community roadshow last week where he visited Arawa (Central Bougainville), Buin (South Bougainville) and Buka (North Bougainville) and addressed the people and also had the opportunity to hear directly from the people.
Many Bougainvilleans, who spoke at the respective venues, expressed the need for more awareness to be undertaken at the ward level and for the two options on the ballot paper-greater autonomy and independence to be explained thoroughly to the people.
Another sticking point raised by many Bougainvilleans was the issue of the eligibility of non-Bougainvilleans who have resided on Bougainvilleans for more than six months to vote at the referendum.
Many Bougainvilleans also questioned the motive behind the recommendation from the BRC to the national government to defer the referendum from the presently approved date of 12 October, 2019.
Ahern was accompanied by BRC members Ruby Mirinka, Patrick Nisira, George Manu, Patilias Gamato, Dr Thomas Webster and Robert Igara.
The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Minister for Peace Agreement Implementation, Albert Punghau also accompanied the delegation.
Ahern reassured Bougainvilleans that he was committed to his role to oversee the successful implementation of the referendum.
He said there was nothing sinister about the recommendation to defer the referendum date saying it was based purely on the intentions of the BRC to conduct a credible referendum which called for “a little bit more time to ensure preparations are done well.”
On the other issues raised, Ahern clarified the BRC was performing its role based on the Bougainville Peace Agreement and other legislations as agreed to by both the national and Bougainville governments and it did not have the power to make certain changes.
Meanwhile, Punghau when officiating in Buka explained the two options on the ballot
“Greater autonomy is a negotiated political settlement that provides for a form of autonomy with greater powers than those currently available under constitutional arrangements.
“While independence is an independent nation state with sovereign powers and laws, recognised under international law and by the sovereign states to be an independent state, separate from the State of Papua New Guinea,” he said.
The BRC chair and commissioners assured Bougainvilleans the BRC would continue to engage with them and the national and Bougainville governments to ensure the referendum is successful.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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