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/.

BRC Completes Face to Face Enrolment in Bougainville

The Bougainville Referendum Commission has successfully completed face-to-face enrolment and quality checking across Bougainville Wards, and is now data processing to prepare the Preliminary Referendum Roll for public display in September.

In six centres across Bougainville, teams of local Data Processing Officers are entering information from the completed and checked enrolment forms and annotated working rolls to prepare the Preliminary Referendum Roll.

Chief Referendum Officer, Mr Mauricio Claudio said, “The BRC would like to thank all Community Government Ward Recorders, Chairs and field staff involved in enrolment and awareness activities during the phase one and two of enrolment. Their commitment and contribution to this historic event is to be commended.

In many cases we have seen people enrol for the first time in an electoral process in Bougainville, and we want to give people that opportunity to be heard.”

In September the Preliminary Referendum Roll will be put on public display in a central location in each ward, as well as enrolment locations outside Bougainville. During this short three-week period, people should:

  • Check that their names are on the roll in the correct ward (and if not, submit a claim for enrolment / claim to transfer enrolment with their Ward Recorder)
  • Check that their details are correct (and if not, advise their Ward Recorder)
  • Lodge an objection against any ineligible voter to their Assistant Returning Officer.

With the recent referendum extension provided by the two governments, Bougainvilleans reaching 18 years of age on or before 23 November 2019, the date polling begins, should now use the phase three period to enrol.

The Chief Referendum Officer said the BRC wants an inclusive and quality Referendum Roll and encouraged people to discuss the display of the Preliminary Referendum Roll with their Community Governments and Ward Recorders.

The phase three public display period will be the last chance for eligible Bougainvilleans to make sure they are correctly enrolled to vote. It’s important that everyone uses the extra time provided by the two governments to check the Preliminary Referendum Roll,” Mr Claudio said.

At the end of face-to-face enrolment the BRC made nearly 1,000 payments last week to field staff. This includes awareness officers, awareness coordinators, ward recorders, enrolment coordinators (Community Government Executive Managers), enrolment team leaders (Community Government Chairs) and enrolment supervisors (Community Government Administration Assistants).

After the public display of the Preliminary Referendum Roll in September, the roll will be updated to produce the final Referendum Roll. Eligible Bougainvilleans not yet enrolled can also continue to visit BRC regional offices in Buka, Arawa, Buin (OBEC Office building).

BRC Will Use Extra Time Wisely to Produce a Better Roll

The Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, Hon Bertie Ahern, has assured people that the BRC will use the six-week extension provided by the two governments to produce a better Referendum Roll.

“We will use these precious few weeks wisely, and we ask for public support to make this Referendum Roll as inclusive as possible and one that people can trust,” Mr Ahern said.

On Friday 2 August the two governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville formally announced a six-week extension to create a more credible referendum roll, and encouraged Bougainvilleans to use the time to make sure they were enrolled. The revised dates are as follows:

  • 27 September: Issue of Writs
  • 23 November: Polling begins

The BRC Chair reaffirmed the governments’ decision that there would be no further extensions. “The referendum will be held this year,” Mr Ahern said.
The six week extension also means that those who will be 18 years of age or older by the first day of polling (now 23 November) can also enrol. In Bougainville, people can visit regional BRC centres in Buka, Arawa and Buin to enrol.

The short extension will allow for the creation of a more comprehensive referendum roll, especially through the three-week public display of the preliminary roll in September in all Wards in Bougainville. During this third phase of enrolment, people can check that their names are included and correct, and complete an enrolment form if needed.

People can also check the other names enrolled in their Ward, and challenge them if they consider that person not eligible to vote.

Everyone wants a good referendum roll. The two governments, leaders, the community, and the BRC. Everyone also wants the referendum to be held as soon as possible – and we are working hard to achieve both these tasks,
Mr Ahern said.

“We believe a quality, credible and inclusive roll is the foundation of a quality, credible and inclusive referendum.”

While there is no perfect roll, and that is the universal experience of elections and referendum around the world and in PNG, we’d like to produce the best one that we can.

It is the Commission’s view that this extension will give us time to complete two critical tasks that both the public and leaders have demanded of us: enrolling Bougainvilleans in hard to reach locations, and extending of the public display period to three weeks so that Bougainvilleans have the time to thoroughly check the preliminary roll ahead of the issuing of Writs.

The Commission has previously extended enrolment for Bougainvilleans living in Bougainville, PNG and those four overseas locations in Solomon Islands and Australia. Recently staff travelled to enrol Bougainvilleans living and working in remote mining and agricultural settlements in PNG – Lihir Island, Porgera, Ramu and Ok Tedi.

Mr Ahern said that the Commission was aware of the need for the referendum to be held to a higher standard of inclusion and quality than a normal electoral process.

THERE IS NO EXTERNAL PRESSURE AND THERE ARE NO HIDDEN AGENDAS. WE WANT TO DELIVER THE REFERENDUM AS SOON AS POSSIBLE THIS YEAR, WE UNDERSTAND OTHERS DO TOO – BUT THE VOTE IS TOO IMPORTANT AND TOO SIGNIFICANT TO TAKE SHORT CUTS AT THIS POINT,” MR AHERN SAID.

The revised referendum timeline for 23 November polling is now as follows:

Ongoing Enrolment Services via BRC
Regional Offices
Ongoing till 27 September
Preliminary Referendum Roll display31 August
Issue Writ
Roll Closes to New Enrolments & Transfers
27 September
Polling schedule displaymid October to early November
Registration of interest groups closesearly November
Polling period starts23 November
Counting period startsearly December
Results declaration and return of
Writ
mid December
Petition periodFor a period of 40 days following
the Return of the Writ

Referendum Observer Applications Open

The Bougainville Referendum Commission has invited applications from local and national groups to observe the conduct of the referendum.

Information and forms can be downloaded from the BRC website: http://bougainville-referendum.org/observers/.

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said observer groups provide a critical role in the democratic process by observing whether the conduct of polling and counting is free and fair according to international standards.
We encourage the participation of local, national and international groups in the referendum, to observe the process, and provide their independent report of polling and counting so that the referendum process is seen as a
credible one by all involved,
” Mr Claudio said.

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.
All referendum observer groups need to be accredited by the BRC, and please note that BRC will only accredit organisations, not individuals.

For the referendum, the three groups are defined as follows:

  • Local observer group: a group based in Bougainville, that is not affiliated with any interest groups.
  • National observer group: a group based elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, that is not affiliated with any interest groups.
  • International observer group, a group based outside of Papua New Guinea that has no affiliation with any interest groups. This includes diplomatic missions or offices of intergovernmental organizations with offices in PNG who have been invited by the national government.

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.

Early application is encouraged by the BRC. Inquiries and applications for observers should be sent to [email protected].

Information and applications for Recognised Interest Groups, who provide scrutineers to the referendum process, will be released in the coming weeks.

Referendum Enrolment for Lihir, Porgera, Ramu and Ok Tedi

The Bougainville Referendum Commission will commence enrolment this week for Bougainvilleans living and working in the remote locations of Lihir, Porgera, Ramu and Ok Tedi.

The decision was made in response to large populations of Bougainvilleans who have been restricted by employment and remoteness to travel to their provincial PNG Electoral Commission office to enrol.

To those who have spoken out with a strong desire to take part in the referendum, we have heard you, logistics are now in place, and please be active in getting yourself enrolled this Monday and Tuesday.

Enrolment will take place on Monday and Tuesday 22-23 July at:

  • Lihir Mine – police station Lihir
  • Ok Tedi – Star mountain LLG Office
  • Ramu Sugar Estate – police station, Ramu Sugar
  • Porgera Mine – Paiam Police station, Porgera

The Commission is pleased to go above and beyond to ensure as many Bougainvilleans can have their say in the referendum. While no roll is perfect, there is a universal desire among all Bougainvilleans to be included in this referendum.

The Commission forewarned that given the referendum timeline, only a few days would be available in each location.

The time will be short with just two days in each location, so Bougainvilleans should be active in getting themselves to enrolment centres on time. We advise to following the BRC Facebook page and website, or be in touch with your local Bougainville Association to keep informed.

All enrolments will be quality checked by the BRC in Bougainville, followed by a public display of the preliminary roll in all Wards in Bougainville.

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 18 years of age of more on the first day of polling
  • Are a PNG citizen, and
  • Are entitled to vote in PNG National Elections

People must satisfy all criteria.

BRC Takes Enrolment to Remote PNG

The Bougainville Referendum Commission is targeting the enrolment of hundreds of Bougainvilleans living in remote mining and agricultural communities in PNG for the next fortnight until 19 July 2019.

Chief Referendum Officer, Mauricio Claudio said it had identified large groups of Bougainvilleans up to 1,000 living and working at remote areas who have been unable to reach their provincial PNG Electoral Office, but were eligible to enrol.

The Commission has identified Lihir Island; Ramu, Madang; Ok Tedi Town and Pogera as the four largest communities it had the resources to reach. “Bougainvilleans living in these areas, despite their remoteness, are strongly engaged in the referendum,” Claudio said.

The Commission is currently working with Bougainville associations, community leaders and employers in each of the four remote locations to provide for a few days for enrolment. It encouraged people to check the Commission’s facebook page and media for information.

Despite the previous enrolment extension, we are still getting information that Bougainvilleans have not yet enrolled and
we urgently encourage them to go to their provincial PNG Electoral Office in the provincial capital.”

While everyone wants a good referendum roll, all parties including the BRC are keen to see the referendum vote take place as soon as possible. We are balancing both these demands, to deliver both an inclusive referendum and credible referendum.”

The Commission’s first estimates are that approximately 9,000 enrolment forms have been completed outside Bougainville, while an intensive and extended village by village process within Bougainville has seen nearly 50,000 new forms completed – however these would all need to be checked and verified, and some were still being transported back to Bougainville. The original 2015 Election Roll had 174,000 enrolments. “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 who has been active to get themselves to an enrolment location. It is now the task of the Commission, through our three AROs and regional officers, to go through all forms, quality check, data entry and then cross check all names.”

A preliminary Referendum Roll will be on public display in all Wards in Bougainville.

People will have one last chance to check their name, correct misspellings and add their name if it’s still not on the roll. It is our strong desire to use this people for Bougainvilleans to tell if the roll is good, and make any final corrections and additions to ensure all and only eligible voters can vote on polling day.”

For anyone in Bougainville not yet on the roll, 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.

BRC Enrolment Starts Tomorrow, Solomon Islands

Enrolment of Bougainvilleans living in Solomon Islands for the Bougainville Referendum starts tomorrow at the PNG High Commission offices, Honiara.

On Thursday a team from the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) arrived with enrolment forms for eligible Bougainvilleans for the upcoming Bougainville Referendum scheduled for 12 October.

The referendum is part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed between the National Government and Bougainville leaders in 2001, bringing an end to a decade of conflict. The choice to be put to Bougainvilleans is Greater Autonomy or Independence.

Enrolment in Honiara will take place Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday (5-6 July and 8-9 July), before the team departs for Gizo to open enrolment for Thursday to Saturday 11-13 July at a location to be confirmed.

On an interview with Radio Australia’s Tok Pisin program, BRC Commissioner Mr Patrick Nisira said the Commission was committed to providing for eligible Bougainvilleans have an opportunity to vote, whether they live in Bougainville, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, and now Solomon Islands.”

The Commission now calls on Bougainvilleans to make sure they attended enrolment for the short period of time as online or electronic enrolment is not available,” Mr Nisira said.

People must enrol to be on the Referendum Roll to vote.” The voter eligibility criteria, established by the two governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville for non- resident Bougainvilleans, 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.

The decision of overseas enrolment in Honiara and Gizo (Solomon Islands), and Cairns and Brisbane (Australia) was made by the Bougainville Referendum Commission meeting with Chair Bertie Ahern on Friday 21 June, in response to the strong desire of Bougainvilleans living overseas to have their say in the referendum.

The Commission thanked the support from the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support in opening PNG High Commission offices in Honiara this Saturday 6 July, and forewarned that given the expected limited enrolments and resources available, only a few days would be available in each location.

BRC Announces Enrolment – Solomon Islands

The Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) has announced enrolment dates for Bougainvilleans living in Solomon Islands.

  • Honiara – 5-6 July and 8-9 July (PNG High Commission, Honiara)
  • Gizo – 11-13 July (location to be confirmed)

The decision of overseas enrolment in Honiara and Gizo (Solomon Islands), and Cairns and Brisbane (Australia) was made by the Bougainville Referendum Commission meeting with Chair Bertie Ahern on Friday 21 June, in response to the strong desire of Bougainvilleans living overseas to have their say in the referendum.

In a media interview yesterday with Radio Australia Tok Pisin service, BRC Commissioner Patrick Nisiria said that with
limited resources, the Commission believed the four centres captured the biggest populations of overseas Bougainvilleans.

“The Commission has to strike the right balance between making enrolment available to Bougainville living overseas within the given timeframe and resources, and the need to maintain a secure process where only eligible people are enrolled,” Mr Nisira said.

The voter eligibility criteria established by the two governments for non-resident Bougainvilleans, or those living 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.

Mr Nisira said the Commission was committed to having all eligible Bougainvilleans have an opportunity to vote, whether they live in Bougainville, elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, and now Solomon Islands and Australia.

“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 Nisira said.
The Commission thanked the support from the PNG Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support in opening PNG High Commission offices in Honiara this Saturday 6 July, and forewarned that given the expected limited enrolments and resources available, only a few days would be available in each location.

“Time is short, so people should be active in preparing themselves to be at enrolment centres on time,” Mr Nisira said. “Our Facebook page and website, or local Bougainville Associations are the best ways to be informed.”

The Commission understood that some Bougainvilleans may miss out, either because PNG citizenship is required to enrol, or because they lived in other locations around the world, but that face-to-face enrolment was the best way to establish the identity of voters and ensure only eligible voters are on the referendum roll.

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.