NOOSA – Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) commander, Ishmael Toroama, was retaining his lead in the Bougainville presidential election after the 280th count this morning.
The Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commission registered 222,333 voters and 446 candidates for the election.
So with about 150,000 votes cast for president, the count has still some way to go and, given that there are 25 candidates in the presidential race, there are likely to be many thousands of preferences to allocate. It is estimated that as few as 68,000 votes in the final count would elect a president, with many preferences being exhausted.
As counting stood at last report, Toroama had a 7,400 vote buffer over second placed Father Simon Dumarinu, former Bougainville Affairs Minister, former chief secretary Thomas Raivet, former Economic Development Minister Fidelis Semoso and former head of the PNG Sports Foundation Peter Tsiamalili.
Another former BRA leader, Samuel Kauona, and ex-president James Tanis, were trailing the leading group, with Tanis falling even further behind.
The top 10 after count 247 were:
Ishmael Toroama- 27,459
Simon Dumarinu – 19,297
Thomas Raivet – 12,992
Fidelis Semoso – 12,248
Peter Tsiamalili – 11,817
Samuel Kauona – 7,932
Joe Lera – 6,738
James Tanis- 7,640
Wesma N Piika – 4,202
Paul Nerau – 3,801
The most outstanding result so far came in the election for the House of Representatives where Theonila Roka Matbob - a traditional landowner from Makosi village - defeated 16 men to win the seat of Ioro. Panguna is at the centre of her electorate and Makosi village is downstream of the mine.
Theonila, also a local teacher, has previously appealed to Rio Tinto, which quit its majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper some years ago, to address the urgent environmental problems facing her community as a result of mining.
“Our land is destroyed and our rivers are poisoned. Kids are drinking and bathing in the polluted water and getting sick. New areas of land are still being flooded with the waste from the mine,” she said.
“We urgently need Rio Tinto to come back and deal with these problems so our communities can find healing.”
Her sister, Llane Munau, a filmmaker and journalist said, “We have supported her all the way and now the true voice of the women and the voiceless in our area regarding the Panguna mine will be heard. God has finally smiled on us.”
Another newcomer to parliament, Emmanuel-Carl Kataevara, is hoping to continue his work in peace building. He previously worked with the Bougainville Government and United Nations as a peace builder and hopes for a cabinet role.
"We shouldn't lose focus [on gaining independence],” he told Radio New Zealand.
“We shouldn't lose sight of the objective and the whole reason for the conflict on Bougainville, and as much as possible ensure that the process works towards achieving that objective."