BRC Chair Bertie Ahern today returned the Writ for a Bougainville Referendum to the Acting Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Hon. Job Pomat.
The returned Writ with the result of the referendum, was signed by the Chair and all Commissioners:
Number of votes for Greater Autonomy: 3,043
Number of votes for Independence: 176,928
Mr Ahern said the return of the Writ concludes what has been an enormous effort by both governments, his fellow commissioners and everyone associated with the referendum process: international and local observers, scrutineers, officials and the media.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone involved and to wish the leaders in both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville every success, as you look towards the future with hope and determination in the creation of new relationships between you,” Mr Ahern said.
“To the people of Bougainville. I want to say that while that past has been a difficult one, the result was an expression of hope for the future, and an honouring of those who you lost in the conflict.”
“The referendum results mean more work for Bougainville, and it may take years for the outcome. Bougainvilleans must be united to see this through. There should not be any more killings or shots fired.”
Under the Organic Law, the period for lodging a petition to dispute the result of the referendum started on Wednesday with the announcement of the result in Buka. It ends on 20 January 2020. A petition can be lodged by a voter, or by the BRC itself. In common with petitions against Papua New Guinea or Autonomous Bougainville Government elections, a petition must specify the exact nature of the dispute and the relief requested.
Mr Ahern had a departing message for the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.
“I want to say that as I stand here today, I am reminded of my own country and the conflict that engulfed it for 30 years. On the day I signed that Good Friday Agreement with the then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair I said:
“Today is a day we should treasure, a day when agreement and accommodation have taken the place of difference and division. Today is the promise of a bright future, a day when we can hope a line can be drawn under the bloody conflict of the past.”
“To both Papua New Guineans and Bougainvillians, I want to say that your best days are ahead of you.”