PORT MORESBY - Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) is the local chapter of the global transparency movement and has been operating in Papua New Guinea since 1997.
TIPNG’s mission is to empower Papua New Guineans to act against corruption.
This statement is a preliminary assessment of the TIPNG observation of the Bougainville referendum polling which was an activity entirely funded by the European Union.
The statement also provides an overview of TIPNG’s observations and highlights key areas which will be covered in depth in a full report that is to be launched before the PNG parliament resumes at the beginning of 2020.
TIPNG thanks the people of Bougainville and the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) polling officials for their unanimous support in answering our survey questions over the week of polling.
TIPNG observers were all welcomed and did not encounter any hostility or violence; in fact most polling stations had a sense of celebration by communities as polling commenced.
Furthermore, all voters that were interviewed by TIPNG observers were forthcoming in their answers and gave answers freely.
The voter surveys were almost all entirely unanimous in their assessment that there were no undue or coercive behaviours, like bribery, threats of violence or block voting.
Almost all respondents said they had not experienced or witnessed issues that have plagued elections in Papua New Guinea in the past, and this was corroborated by the TIPNG observer teams.
It should be noted that amongst the 28 polling places observed, only one in Central Bougainville had a serious deficiency as the secrecy of the vote was violated by a man from the community seeing how each vote was cast at the ballot booth and in some instances filling in the ballot for electors.
It would appear that this was an anomalous incident, however in the absence of other observer reports it is unclear how reflective this incident was of other electoral violations.
While there were other procedural issues by BRC officials, such as the inadequate provision of provisional votes, limited polling booths and the early close of polling stations before 6pm, these were minor instances and could be easily ascribed to under-resourcing or insufficient training of BRC polling officials.
On the whole the TIPNG Bougainville referendum observation preliminary finding is that while there were minor procedural issues, if measured against the standard of previous elections in PNG, the Bougainville referendum was free, fair and safe and credibly reflects the will of the people of Bougainville.