The dates set are:
- Honiara 5-6 July and 8-9 July (PNG High Commission, Honiara)
- Gizo 11-13 July (location to be confirmed)
The decision of overseas enrolment in Honiara and Gizo (Solomon Islands), and Cairns and Brisbane (Australia), was made by the Bougainville Referendum Commission meeting with Chair Bertie Ahern on June 21, in response to the strong desire of Bougainvilleans living overseas to have their say in the referendum.
In a media interview, BRC Commissioner Patrick Nisiria said with limited resources, the Commission believed the four centres captured the biggest populations of overseas Bougainvilleans.
“The Commission has to strike the right balance between making enrolment available to Bougainvilleans living overseas within the given timeframe and resources, and the need to maintain a secure process where only eligible people are enrolled,” Nisira said.
The voter eligibility criteria established by the two governments for non-resident Bougainvilleans, or those living outside Bougainville, are:
- Have links to Bougainville either by birth, adoption, marriage, or clan
- Be born on or before 12 October 2001
- Are a PNG citizen, and
- Are entitled to vote in PNG National Elections
People must satisfy all criteria. They must be a PNG citizen and cannot be a dual citizen.
Nisira said the Commission was committed to having all eligible Bougainvilleans have an opportunity to vote, whether they live in Bougainville, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, and now Solomon Islands and Australia.
“Overseas enrolment is a first for Papua New Guinea, so there is a lot of new work to be done – but we confident we’re making every effort to ensure as many eligible voters can have their say on polling day,” Nisira said.
The Commission thanked the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support in opening PNG High Commission offices in Honiara this Saturday, July 6th, and forewarned that given the expected limited enrolments and resources available, only a few days would be available in each location.
“Time is short, so people should be active in preparing themselves to be at enrolment centres on time,” Nisira stated.
“Our Facebook page and website, or local Bougainville Associations are the best ways to be informed.”
The Commission understood that some Bougainvilleans may miss out, either because PNG citizenship is required to enrol, or because they lived in other locations around the world, but that face-to-face enrolment was the best way to establish the identity of voters and ensure only eligible voters are on the referendum roll.