The ballot boxes for all non-resident Bougainville polling places have been returned safely and securely to Bougainville.
The materials arrived in Buka this afternoon in the custody of BRC Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) Simon Soheke, who was accompanied on the BRC charter plane by police, observers and scrutineers.
The 33 ballot boxes and materials were used for polling in PNG provinces and four special work sites, as well as Australia (Brisbane, Cairns) and Solomon Islands (Gizo, Honiara).
Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said the ballots boxes for non-resident Bougainvilleans, as with all 249 ballot boxes used in the referendum, had remained locked by special numbered seals since polling began on 23 November.
“Security is one of the four key principles of the count centre process – all ballot box seals are checked against the numbers recorded in the journal to ensure all seals are intact. This is done under the presence of BRC officials, the ARO, scrutineers, observers and the media.”
The newly arrived ballot boxes have been stored securely at PNG Electoral Commission in Port Moresby since the end of polling after being checked by the ARO and put under lock and key and 24/7 security.All materials were loaded into the cabin area of a specially BRC chartered Link PNG flight this morning, accompanied by the ARO and BRC officials, two police, two scrutineers and two observers.
“We absolutely understand the need for every step of the process to be secure, but also open and transparent so that everyone can be confident of the process and final result,” Mr Claudio said.
“Everything the BRC does is by the book, is open to scrutineers and observers, and is secured by police protection.”
“As the independent agency appointed by both governments to deliver a credible Referendum to international standards, we not for either option, and not for either government.”
After arrival at Buka airport, the ballot boxes and materials were transported directly to the Count Centre for checking and registration.
All ordinary ballot boxes have now been received at the count centre. Tomorrow (Saturday) the ballot box for postal votes and the final box for northern region will be sealed and also taken to the count centre after 6.00pm, marking the official close of the polling period as specified in the Referendum Writ.
Officials at Count Centre will then immediately commence a thorough verification and cross check of ballot papers, before mixing and beginning the count.
The Chief Referendum Officer acknowledge the dedication of the PNG and overseas teams who had delivered the most inclusive polling process ever to Bougainvilleans living outside the region.
“To all BRC officials, government agencies and the donor community required to deliver polling overseas and in every province with enrolled Bougainvilleans, the Commission thanks you. To all the voters who mobilised themselves to get enrolled and to vote – we also thank you.”