Saturday, 29 February, 2020


Vote count complete after Bougainville referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea

Vote count complete after Bougainville referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea Vote count complete after Bougainville referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea
Bennie Garza | 12 December, 2019, 07:53

The referendum's result in the South Pacific region of Bougainville showed that residents overwhelmingly supported idea of gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.

"In many ways the referendum is the easy part", the Australian National University's Peake said.

Official results from the non-binding poll showed that nearly 98 percent of the 181,067 votes cast backed independence while just 3,043 voters opted to remain part of PNG with more autonomy.

Discussions will take place with the Papua New Guinea government to decide when - or if - the transition to full independence can begin.

The historic vote caps a decades-long peace process and a long recovery from a brutal civil war between Bougainville rebels, Papua New Guinea security forces and foreign mercenaries that ended in 1998 and left up to 20,000 people dead - 10 percent of the population.

Before the result was announced by the chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, the atmosphere inside the hall in the town of Buka was tense and quiet.

- There's uncertainty over how an unbiased Bougainville might fund itself, because it now depends on assist from PNG, based on Australia's Lowy Institute assume tank.

There is anxiety among some in Port Moresby that Bougainville could set a precedent and spur other independence movements.

- Buka city on Buka island is the capital of the area, and homes the federal government headquarters.

"I want to first acknowledge the result".

"That's my dream, to go and rebuild", said the 36-year old, who was a child during the conflict.

In 1998, with the help of some global bodies, the fighting ceased and the Bougainville Peace Agreement was reached. But it all came to an end in 1989 when production abruptly halted following separatist militant activity by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighting against the PNG army, mainly over issues caused by a large influx of PNG migrants that did not sit well with Bougainvillians.

Rejecting the results could reignite conflict and endanger the peace process.

The mine is estimated to still hold more than five million tonnes of copper and 19 million ounces of gold - worth billions of dollars at current market prices. Following the war, Australia occupied the island and then in 1975 it became part of Papua New Guinea. While for Bougainville, no independence has the potential of pushing the island into another phase of insurgency and unrest.

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