Vice-President Raymond Masono welcomed the research team to Bougainville on Friday (Nov 10) and thanked the Speaker for taking a proactive approach to informing Members of Parliament.
“Bougainville needs to be strategic and learn about how other societies have gone about these democratic exercises,” Masono said.
“Right now Bougainville Members are busy preparing their constituencies – we want them to disseminate factual and neutral information about the referendum to help people make an informed decision.”
NRI research leader, Dr Thomas Webster, said NRI considers Bougainville referendum to be a significant national event that will impact both the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.
“The future of Bougainville needs to be determined through a credible and informed process. Let’s not wait until the outcome, but let’s be prepared,” Dr Webster urged.
Dr Webster briefed Parliament on the seven key studies to be undertaken, grouped into three areas:
- Understanding referendum, preparing for referendum (two studies)
- Autonomy considerations: Political and fiscal (two studies)
- Preparing for outcome and negotiation (three studies)
Two international referendum experts from the NRI team presented their draft findings for the two referendum studies.
Professor Matt Qvortrup from Coventry University, presented Referendum Case Studies on how the Bougainville referendum compares with those held elsewhere, such as in Timor Leste and South Sudan, and what lessons can be learnt from these experiences.
Andrew Ellis presented Referendum Administration Issues highlighting the international standards and legal frameworks including administration of the referendum questions and voter registration.
The Vice-President said the Autonomous Bougainville Government had been looking forward to preparations being fast-tracked with the establishment of Bougainville Referendum Commission, however this has not happened.
“What we have found is that since the establishment of the Commission, urgent activity seems to have stalled despite our best efforts.
“Those of us who understand the peace process know we must do all things possible to hit our target date of 15 June 2019.”
NRI will continue to conduct awareness to both governments and the public as the research activities progress.