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.