Hundreds of Bougainvilleans gathered to witness the historic handover of the Referendum Writ from the Bougainville Referendum Commission to the Referendum Returning Officer in Arawa on September 30.
The official ceremony was witnessed by the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Hon. James Marape and ABG President Chief Dr John Momis.
The Writ issued on Friday September 27 to the Bougainville Referendum Commission by Governor-General of Papua New Guinea Sir Bob Dadae officially declaring polling to begin on Saturday 23 November until Saturday 7 December.
The Writ closes the roll to new enrolments and sets the 20 December as the last day to return of the Writ to the Governor-General with the results:
- Number of votes for greater autonomy
- Number of votes for independence
- Number of informal ballot papers
BRC Chief Referendum Officer, Mauricio Claudio told the crowd it was an occasion to be cherished and celebrated by all people of Bougainville.
“It’s official, we are ready! In November we will be delivering a free and fair referendum to an international standard” said Mr Claudio.
“We thank all the people of Bougainville, including over 200,000 who have got themselves enrolled.
“I thank those who have heard our message to get yourselfs enrolled before the Writ closed the roll.
“I also thank the Ward Recorders and those officials who have tirelessly worked to prepare the roll and prepare us for this day.”
“The referendum should be celebrated. It is a unique and joyous occasion for Bougainville and the nation of Papua New Guinea. We are creating a new history where every man and every woman can make a choice that expresses their individual democratic right to decide on the question of greater autonomy or independence for a future Bougainville.”
ABG President Chief Dr John Momis who was there to witness the occasion said the decision was now entrusted into the hands of individual Bougainvilleans to make the right choice.
He urged those present to witness the issue of the writs to make the right and informed choice and accept the outcome as well.
“You must take ownership and make the right choice and be ready to accept the outcome of your decision as well,” he said.
PNG Prime Minister Hon. James Marape upon giving his guest of honor remarks commended all Bougainvilleans, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Bougainville Referendum Commission, stakeholders, implementing partners and donors who have made it possible for the region to come this far.
Meanwhile upon receiving the writs, Referendum Returning Officer, Mr John Sisiesi said he was confident in a successful referendum.
“I am confident that this referendum will be successful,” he said.
Mr. Sisiesi also emphasized that for the success of the referendum, community support will be a vital instrument.
He said in order for a free and fair vote where all could cast their ballot free of fear and intimidation, support from every individual Bougainvilleans was necessary.