Lera applauds preparation of Bougainville’s Referendum

Minister for Bougainville Affairs and regional MP for the Autonomous region of Bougainville, Joseph Lera has praised the progress in the implementation of Bougainville’s Referendum.

Earlier this week in an agreement signing between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and their two electoral commissions, the PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Electoral Commission, agreed for an establishment of an independent body, the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), which will oversee the running of Bougainville’s Referendum.

Lera said the setting up of the BRC was very crucial at this stage as the instrument will now direct the Bougainville Referendum Commission and its administrative structures to oversee the conduct of the Referendum on the political future of Bougainville.

He said for the referendum process to be achieved in its entirety and for it to be deemed as a process, the BRC must ensure that all sides of the coin must be addressed now, during, and after the conduct of the Referendum.

“It is now timely indeed and vital for leaders to engage on other sensitive and challenging aspects, particularly in regards to the benchmarks to be used in setting the actual time for the vote and the choices to be presented to the voters,” Lera said. 

This is critical in ensuring that the referendum is free and fair and the eventual outcome is consistent with maintaining and continuing to build lasting peace by peaceful means in accordance with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitutional Laws which give it legal effect. 

Lera also applauded the United Nations for their very supportive and active role as a development partner since the commencement of the Referendum agenda leading up to the current agreement between the two governments.

Lera said now that the Bougainville Referendum Commission has been set up, it is now the onus of the two governments to immediately appoint a board of commissioners.

The agreements signed include officially handing the powers to BRC and how the BRC will carry out the agreement.

A final chapter is still yet to be signed so once that is completed along with staffing and funding the BRC will be fully operational. 

The actual date of holding Bougainville’s Referendum will be determined through further consultation and planning between the political leaders of both governments earmarked between June 15, 2019 and June 15, 2020.

Freddy Mou