Polling commenced in Gizo, Solomon Islands and Cairns, Australia, this morning, marking the first time overseas polling has been offered for citizens of Papua New Guinea.
On Saturday, President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Chief Dr John Momis and Lady Momis, cast the first two votes in the historic Bougainville referendum at Bel Isi Park in Buka, witnessed by the co-chairs of the Joint Post-referendum taskforce, Sir Puka Temu and Albert Punghau.
Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said as predicted, the story of this historic referendum so far has been one of peaceful and joyous polling.
“This morning polling across Bougainville has had the same festive but emotional atmosphere as men and women, young and old celebrate their right to vote in the constitutionally guaranteed referendum,” Claudio said.
“We congratulate and thank voters for coming out in their thousands, upholding the peace process and respecting everyone’s right to vote freely and fairly.”
On Saturday (Nov 23), polling took place in 21 locations according to the schedule without incident, eleven in Bougainville and 10 in main urban centres outside Bougainville in Papua New Guinea.
The majority of polling will now take place between Monday and Friday as nearly 250 teams move around Bougainville, PNG provincial centres and four special work sites, as well as Australia and Solomon Islands.
The Chief Referendum Officer emphasised that by law, only people on the referendum roll were entitled to vote.
“We know that some have not taken the opportunity during the three phases of enrolment over many months to get themselves enrolled. However, by law, they cannot now be issued with a ballot.
“Our message is the same for every Bougainvillean. If you got yourself enrolled on the referendum roll, please go out and cast your vote with the confidence that your vote will be safe, secure and secret according to the law and international electoral best practice.”
People can check the polling schedule on the BRC website or using the SMS roll and polling check: (+675) 7933 6628 or 7149 3920 with their name, date of birth and place of enrolment.
Cairns: 25-26 November, PNG Consulate
Brisbane: 28-29 November, PNG Consulate
Gizo: 25-26 November, St Peter Parish-Catholic Training Centre
Honiara: 28-29 November, PNG High Commission
(A voter with officials at the PNG Consulate in Cairns)