100 Days to go

Wednesday marked 100 days to the commencement of polling in the Bougainville Referendum.

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said he was satisfied with the collaboration and progress being made by hundreds of officials across multiple locations.

“Referendum preparations continue apace, and we are on track to meet the dates established by the two governments: Issue of Writs on 27 September, start of polling on November 23,” Mr Claudio said.

“A referendum of this scale, that is, capturing the views of eligible Bougainvilleans living in the Autonomous Region, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea and four overseas location, is historic and something people can be proud of.”

“The conduct of the referendum is a team effort, and the Commission is grateful for the dedicated work of Community Governments and Ward Recorders, the PNG Electoral Commission, overseas diplomatic missions and the international donor community.”

Enrolment has demonstrated strong public demand; people want the opportunity to enroll and have their say.

“This level of engagement is welcome and positive, with groups that were previously disengaged now actively participating in the enrolment exercise. Pressure and requests for enrolment have outstripped those for previous
Bougainville regional and national elections,”
Mr Claudio said.

With 100 days to go polling preparations are well underway. The ballot paper design has been approved and will soon be printed and made public, and preparations are being made for around 500 polling locations for Bougainville, each of the 21 PNG provinces and four remote locations, and in Gizo, Honiara, Brisbane and Cairns overseas.

The Chief Referendum Officer called on Bougainvilleans to remain active over the coming weeks, to check their name during the three-week public display of the preliminary roll.

“This is the last step of the enrolment exercise. For three weeks in September (10 days for locations outside Bougainville and overseas), people will have a final chance to check their names, enrol or correct if needed, and tell us if there are any problems with those also enrolled in their Ward,” Mr Claudio said. “The two governments have provided us all with an extra few weeks to make sure we have a higher quality roll – but we need public support to make this happen.”

This Saturday BRC Commissioner Manu will attend Bougainville celebrations in Kokopo to provide awareness, and in the coming weeks enrolment officers will be visiting Bougainville high schools to ensure all students turning 18 by the first day of polling have enrolled. Enrolment continues at the BRC’s three regional offices in Arawa, Buin and Buka until
the issue of the writ.

Observer Applicants Commended

The Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) has commended the Bougainville Women’s Federation for their application to observe the Bougainville Referendum.

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said the involvement of independent observers, scrutineers and the media underlined the shared responsibility of ensuring the referendum is conducted in a free and fair manner.

“Observers play a critical role in the democratic electoral process, observing the conduct of polling and counting according to international standards. They add to the credibility of the process,” Mr Claudio said.

“I commend the Bougainville Women’s Federation for their participation, and further encourage other groups wishing to observe the referendum to apply now – applications close 1 October, in six weeks.”

“We expect that various Bougainville and national NGOs may apply to be an observer group, as well as various diplomatic missions and intergovernmental agencies invited by the National Government,” Mr Claudio said.

The Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said as part of accreditation, all observers must sign and follow a BRC Code of Conduct for Observation, and carry out their role according to the same principles of the BRC Charter of impartiality and independence, as well as operating with objectivity, legality and certainty.

“Observers must maintain a high level of neutrality and professionalism to meet international standards. They cannot interfere in the polling and counting process. Their role is to observe only,” Mr Claudio said.

Applications will soon open for scrutineers who may be nominated by the two governments and by recognized interest groups. Scrutineers in the referendum will play a role similar to candidate agents in an election, supporting either of the two options: greater autonomy or independence. Scrutineers are different to observers because they can ask questions to presiding officers regarding a voter during the polling – which observers cannot.

Early application for observers is encouraged by the BRC. Inquiries and applications for observers should be sent to [email protected]. Application for both observers and scrutineers will close 1 October, 2019.

Information and forms can be downloaded at: http://bougainville-referendum.org/observers/.

More Time for Bougainvillean Enrolment in Papua New Guinea

The Bougainville Referendum Commission has extended the enrolment of Bougainvilleans living outside of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea until 8 July 2019.

Chief Referendum Officer, Mauricio Claudio said high voter turnout and delays in delivering enrolment forms to the more remote provinces meant more time was needed to make sure every eligible Bougainvillean had the chance to enrol.

“We have been delighted by the response of Bougainvilleans, both in Bougainville and outside Bougainville, who have never enrolled to vote in an election before, now putting their name on the referendum roll,” Mr Claudio said.

Thank you to everyone across the country who have been active in traveling to their provincial PNG Electoral Commission office to enrol – you now have until Monday 8 July to be included in this phase two of enrolment.
We know that conducting this historic referendum across Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and now Solomon Islands and Australia is new and would have it’s challenges – but our commitment remains to work within the given laws, resources and timeline to ensure Bougainvilleans can have the opportunity to vote.

In Bougainville, Ward Recorders are handing in their phase two enrolment forms. All forms will be quality checked, before data entry begins to develop a preliminary referendum roll.

In August, the preliminary roll will be publicly displayed in all Wards for people to check their name, spelling and complete an enrolment form if needed.

For anyone in Bougainville not yet on the roll, please go to your BRC regional centre in Buka, Arawa and Buin – check if you are already on the roll, and if not, fill out an enrolment form.

In August, the Commission will conduct phase three of creating the referendum roll, which will be the last chance to enrol.

We will be doing mass awareness before then to tell people how this short stage will work,” the Chief Referendum Officer assured. “People will have one last chance to check their name, correct misspellings and add their name if it’s still not on the roll.”

The Bougainville Referendum Commission is also mobilising international teams to travel to Solomon Islands and Australia to enroll Bougainvilleans living in Honiara, Gizo, Brisbane and Cairns.

We encourage people to keep active in getting themselves informed about vital parts of the referendum including the current voter registration process.

BRC Announces Enrolment in Australia and Solomon Islands

The Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission has announced that enrolment of Bougainvilleans living in Solomon Islands and Australia will soon go ahead.

Face to face enrolment will be available in July in four locations: Honiara and Gizo, Solomon Islands, and Brisbane and Cairns, Australia. These are the main population centres for Bougainvilleans living overseas.

Commission Chair, Hon. Bertie Ahern, said the Commission had met on Friday to discuss current progress of enrolment and the strong desire of Bougainvilleans living overseas to have their say in the referendum.

The Commission has to strike the right balance between making enrolment available to Bougainville living overseas, with the need to maintain a secure process where only eligible people are enrolled,” Mr Ahern said.
Face to face enrolment is the best way to establish the identity of voters, and ensure only eligible voters are on the referendum roll to vote.
However, given the expected numbers and resources available, Mr Ahearn forewarned that each location will have only a few days enrolment each, and that people needed to be active in preparing themselves and getting the
message out to be at enrolment centres on time.

The Commission will undertake advance awareness to get people ready. The time will be short, and people will need to move when the time comes,” Ahern said. “Following our Facebook page and website, or getting in touch
with your local Bougainville Associations and local media are key ways to be informed.

As an international process, the Commission is working in close cooperation with the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs to determine the details of logistics of where and when enrolment can be done in the four locations.
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.

Mr Ahern said he understood some may miss out, either because of the PNG citizenship requirement, or because they are living far and wide in other places around the world.

Unfortunately, we are governed by the laws decided under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and by the two governments, and have limited resources to conduct overseas enrolment – we believe this decision will open the
referendum to as many Bougainvilleans as possible,
” Ahern said.

The voter eligibility criteria established by the two governments for non-resident Bougainvilleans, or those 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. People must be a PNG citizen and cannot be a dual citizen.

BRC Ramps up Awareness for Voter Registration

The Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) has ramped up its awareness, sending SMS messages direct to people’s mobile phones.

Starting this week, people living in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville on the Digicel network are receiving short SMS messages to their phone with awareness and updates about the referendum process – BRC Tok Save.

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said that as the Commission gains more staffing and resources, it has been able to boost much needed awareness across face to face, voter materials, website, media, Facebook, and now mobile phone.

“This referendum is a first for Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, and as a new electoral process with its own laws and guidelines, we need to get awareness out across all mediums because not everyone has the same access to information,” Claudio said.

The Commission now has over 500 trained awareness officers covering every Ward and urban centre in Bougainville, a website, Facebook page and is getting out through media and mobile phone as much as possible.

Recent Bougainville Audience Research suggests almost 75% of the population has access to a mobile phone – and use it to give and receive information, however access to mass media is low and there is a preference for face to face for question and answers.

“Our aim is a free, fair and informed referendum, meaning people have information to be empowered to participate in the referendum and to vote.”

“We encourage people to be active in getting themselves informed about vital parts of the referendum including the current registration process.”

“We are now completing the second, extended phase of house to house enrolment by Ward Recorders this weekend. However, people should soon look out for information about the final phase of enrolment in August, the public display of the draft referendum roll in every Ward.”

“People have last chance to check their name, correct misspellings and add their name if it’s still not on the roll. This will happen in August.”

BRC: Enrolment has not Closed or Finished

“Voter enrolment and updating of the Referendum Roll has not finished and will continue until the issue of writs for the Referendum and until the job is done. We will keep open beyond June 23 the three BRC regional centres in Buka, Arawa and Buin for voters yet to see their Ward Recorder.”

This was the message from the Chief Referendum Officer as phase two of the referendum enrolment process draws to a close.

“We congratulate all Bougainville Ward Recorders who have done the hard work of phase one and two – removing old or ineligible names off the 2015 election roll, and enrolling new voters in each Ward,” Mr. Claudio said.

“Thank you also to Bougainvilleans across the region who have been active in ensuring their name is on the roll and enrolling if not, including the hundreds who attended special regional enrolment stations at the BRC/OBEC offices in Buka, Arawa and Buin over the weekend.”

“We know that because of logistic challenges, including getting to Atolls and remote communities, that some Ward Recorders are yet to complete their given task, which was to ensure all eligible voters in their Ward are enrolled. Their job is clear – they must keep working hard and quickly over the next few days until their job is done.”

Outside Bougainville and within Papua New Guinea, Bougainvilleans still have another eight days until Monday 1 July to visit their provincial PNG Electoral Office to enroll. On Bougainville, persons eligible to enroll can visit BRC regional centres in Buka, Arawa and Buin to enroll until the issue-of-writ date of August 16.

“The referendum timeline is short. We have until the issue of Writs in 16 August which is the official close of enrolment, so the BRC cannot make late changes and extensions at this stage without affecting the quality of the roll, compromising the law or jeopardizing the Referendum dates set by the two governments.” Claudio said.

Before the issue of the Writ, there will be a third phase of enrolment, a one-week public display of the preliminary Referendum Roll in each Ward.
“Phase three will offer another chance to enrol. We will be doing mass awareness before then to tell people how this will work,” the Chief Referendum Officer assured. “People will have one last chance to check their name, correct misspellings and add their name if it’s still not on the preliminary Referendum Roll. This will happen early August. The Bougainville Referendum Commission will also enrol overseas Bougainvilleans living in four main population centres in the Solomon Islands and Australia. The Commission will be releasing enrolment information for Bougainvilleans living in Honiara and Gizo in the Solomon Islands, and in Brisbane and Cairns in Australia soon, and we are extremely pleased to be able to provide this opportunity to include Bougainvilleans living far and wide in the Referendum because we know their desire is strong.”

There has been a lot of misinformation on social media regarding the enrolment process – and this is to be expected for such a new and historic process conducted within very tight timelines according to laws, funds and resources – so please, go to the Bougainville Referendum Commission Facebook page, our website for the correct information, or contact your
BRC Awareness Officer or Ward Recorder in each Ward.

“We encourage people to be active in getting themselves informed about vital parts of the referendum including the current voter registration process.”