NOOSA - The chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, says the “world is watching Bougainville” as it prepares for a referendum on its political future.
And he says he wants the process to be “a joyful celebration”.
“I congratulate the two governments and the people of Bougainville for reaching this historic point,” Ahern said.
“It’s one more step in an historic and internationally regarded peace process.”
Voting will take place for two weeks between Saturday 23 November and Saturday 7 December to decide whether Bougainville becomes an independent nation or has greater autonomy within Papua New Guinea.
The result of the referendum will be known no later than Friday 20 December but the decision will have to be agreed by PNG’s parliament.
The referendum has been delayed twice this year because of the need to create a more credible electoral roll. More than 200,000 people are now enrolled to vote, including the populations of the remote atolls.
The Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in 2001 after a 10-year civil war gave PNG and Bougainville until mid-2020 to hold the referendum.