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Further delay to B'ville referendum – now scheduled for November

JOHN MAIR | Reuters | Extract

SYDNEY - An independence referendum for Bougainville has been again delayed by the governments of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea but will be held this year, the referendum commission has said.

Voting in the referendum will now open on 23 November, having been pushed back from a revised date of 17 October.

Under a peace agreement signed after the nine-year civil war with PNG that ended in 1998, Bougainville has until mid-2020 to hold the referendum, which had originally been scheduled for June.

"The referendum will be held this year," Bougainville Referendum Commission chair Bertie Ahern said after the two governments decided on Friday that extra time was needed to create a more credible electoral roll.

"We will use these precious few weeks wisely, and we ask for public support to make this referendum roll as inclusive as possible and one that people can trust," said Ahern, a former prime minister of Ireland.

The conflict between Bougainville's rebel guerrilla army and Papua New Guinea forces left as many as 20,000 dead.

The outcome of the referendum, which analysts expect to support independence, is then subject to ratification by PNG's parliament.


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