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The former Me’ekamui Defence commander and now deputy Chairman of the Bougainville veterans unification core group, Moses Pipiro has thanked people who have joined the rest of Bougainville to vote in the referendum, now into its second and final week.
He told New Dawn FM in Panguna he was happy that his group joined the peace process to finally release Bougainville from the many problems that it has faced in the past.
Pipiro said he also was happy that the Tonu Me’ekamui group supported the process and the Commander Paul Ihrah voted with the rest of Bougainvilleans.
He said this is what Bougainvilleans on all sides waited for many years - to have a legal referendum that will allow them to decide their political future.
What happens after is for the two governments to consult over the result and decide on an outcome that will determine the future of Bougainville.
He is confident the people of Bougainville will wait patiently for the final outcome
Meanwhile, the Bougainville Referendum Commission has provided special polling for 15 Upes in Teua West Coast of Bougainville, as well as visiting bed-ridden hospital patients and those in the Buka Police lockup to ensure everyone casts their vote.
“For those who got themselves enrolled months ago, we’ve done our best to get to you,” Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said.
Upes are boys and young men undertaking their ‘coming of age’ initiations. During long periods they remain in the bush away from the village learning cultural, medicinal, hunting and other rites of passage to become a man. During this time they wear an Upe – a tall, woven hat hiding their hair - and cannot be seen by women.
The Kunua (Teua) community, one of three communities in Bougainville where the Upe traditional is still practiced, is one hour’s walk in from the West Coast of Bougainville Island.
Returning Officer, John Sisiesi, who also cast his vote in kastom dress, said it was important to both respect and keep Bougainville customs alive.
“Upe is a long tradition in Bougainville and the Upe is at the centre of the Bougainville flag. So I’m happy that on the completion of all other polling in this constituency, we have been able to make special men-only polling arrangements for these young men” Sisiesi said.
The teacher of the young men, Sam Manu, passed on the appreciation of the 15 young men who were able to cast their vote whilst also maintaining their reclusive initiation ceremony.
“It means a lot to them to be able to take part in this historic referendum.”
It is another first for Bougainville electoral processes, the BRC regional team for north provided polling at Buka hospital for 87 staff, patients, and their family and carers. This morning, the same team visited the Buka Police Station lockup to allow 29 voters to cast their ballot.
Chief Referendum Officer said this was perhaps the most inclusive electoral process ever provided in Papua New Guinea.
“Through three phases of enrolment including a three-week public display, postal and provisional voting, to polling across three countries, to remote atolls, highlands and special pockets of voters – our officials have tried their best to make this an event for all Bougainvilleans,” Claudio said..
SOURCE: NEW DAWN FM/BRC
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