Engagement or Disenchantment
Punches pulled: The report of the Commonwealth Observer Group

Let us prepare the common roll for our Bougainville referendum

Election on Bougainville  2015LEONARD FONG ROKA

ARAWA - In 2012 while I was in Madang I read a newspaper report saying that the names of President John Momis and his wife were missing from the election common roll.

These two a prominent figures thus could not cast their votes in Buka in Papua New Guinea’s general election.

Real bad! So who was responsible for this shit and why?

Reading through ‘Bougainville Democratic Governance: Desktop Analysis’ (2014) by Nicole Haley and Anthony Regan, I was sickened to see that the Bougainville election common rolls had long been problematic.

The Papua New Guinean common rolls have long had no integrity and the voter registration and verification process has long been blemished.

Haley and Regan highlighted that in Bougainville there were 1,200 voters with only one name and no surname or father’s name. There were another 1,000 electors who had as their family name a female name and not the father’s name as it is customary.

Furthermore, the roll listed 36 voters who were 100 years old in Bougainville; and one voter of 2,000 years old. Another younger person was only 948 years old. Oh Bougainville!

The overall outcome, beyond these vignettes, indicated chaos in Bougainville elections.

This will be a disaster for the referendum on the political future of Bougainville – due in less than a year - if we will not act now for the better.

Our government and other stakeholders must work on the referendum common roll since the roll for Bougainville is in the same unreliable form that it was in this year’s PNG national election.

From the Autonomous Bougainville Government comes word that wards in the community governments will be engaged in collecting the data that will help regularize the referendum roll.

But in my travels around Bougainville, I am not seeing ward officials doing this. The leaders of the community governments are snoring.

In the Panguna District, for example, only one ward in the Ioro area is currently working on data collection. And this is because of its pragmatic chairman, paramount chief of Enamira Village Michael Pariu. Mr Pariu waits for nobody.

Most community government and ward leaders are occupied with maneuvering to re-open the Panguna copper and gold mine – important perhaps, but sit i as important as nation-building?

So people need to come forward and say ‘we want to enroll’. We need to get the common roll representing the true population of eligible voters. And when the polling date in 2019 comes around, those enrolled voters must be able to cast their votes.

In practice, this has not much been the case. Haley and Reagan show that in the 2005 Bougainville election there were 133,000 enrolled voters and only 69,343 (52%) cast their votes. In the 2008 by-election for president, there were 126,127 enrolled voters and only 37,126 (29%) cast their votes. Awful.

In the 2015 Bougainville elections, of the 172,797 enrolled voters, 104,300 (60%) cast their votes. Much improved, but we expect better.

Bougainvilleans need to end this ignorance and pretence that somehow you can sleep and wake under the cover of their government.

The validity of our referendum results may well come under scrutiny and be tested by the voter turnout.

So from the mountains and coastline and atolls of Bougainville, push your local ABG members, ward members and community government representatives to wake, not sleep.

You can contact Leonard Fong Roka here. He welcomes your feedback



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