The Bougainville Referendum Commission

Chair Bertie Ahern

The honourable Bertie Ahern comes from Dublin, Ireland. He was educated at University College Dublin and the London School of Economics, and worked as an accountant before his election to the Dáil [pronounced Doyle], the lower house of the Irish parliament) in 1977. He became a junior minister in 1982 and then minister for labour in 1987 where he successfully negotiated general economic agreements with employers, unions, and farmers. He was minister for finance from 1991 until 1994. Following elections in 1997 Mr Ahern formed and led coalition government following elections in 1997, being re-elected as taoiseach or Prime Minister, in 2002. Mr Ahern played a major role in securing peace in Northern Ireland, participating in the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and helping negotiate the return of devolution to Northern Ireland in 2007. On May 15, 2007, he became the first Irish Prime Minster to address a joint session of the UK Parliament. Mr Ahern stepped down as party leader and Prime Minister in May 2008. In 2018, Mr Ahern was asked by the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to chair the independent Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Dr Thomas Webster

Dr. Thomas Webster assumed the post of Professorial Research Fellow under the Governance Research Program and Team Leader of the Bougainville Referendum Research Project at the PNG National Research Institute from January 2017.

He has served as Director of the PNG NRI for nearly eleven years, and retired in 2015. As Director, he shifted the focus of the PNG NRI core research work to analysing PNG development issues and public policy options. Some of the key policy reforms that the PNG NRI contributed to thinking and discussions during his tenure as director were in the area of electoral reforms, competition policy, sub-national governance arrangements, land development policies particularly reforms targeted at development of customary owned land.

Mr Patilias Gamato

Mr Patilias Gamato is the current Electoral Commissioner of Papua New Guinea. He was the former District Administrator for Lae District, Deputy Provincial Administrator for Districts and Local-Level Governments and Infrastructure and the Provincial Administrator for Morobe.

Mr. Gamato also held various positions within the Public Service including Chairman of the Provincial Budget Committee, Chairman of the Morobe Physical Planning, Chairman of the Provincial HIV/AIDS, and Chairman of the Provincial Disaster Committee.

 He ran the 2002National Election in Lae, Chaired the Provincial Election SteeringCommittee in Morobe for Elections 2007, 2012, 2013 LLG Election and as Electoral Commissioner he ran the 2017 National General Election in Papua New Guinea.

As Electoral Commissioner, he co-chaired the Bougainville Referendum Commission – Transitional Committee and now he is the member of the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Mr. Gamato holds a Diploma in Public Administration (PNGIPA), Diploma in Management,TAFE College, NSW, and Bachelor in Business and Administration (UPNG) Masters in Strategic Management (UPNG).

Ms Ruby Mirinka

Mrs Ruby Mirinka started her career in healthcare as a nurse and rose through the ranks as a respected teacher and principle of nursing. Her experience in healthcare lead her to provide necessary crisis humanitarian relief and community service during the conflict years. Despite the risks, Mrs. Mirika organized mass community healthcare and education for children affected by the conflict.

Her commitment to her community and her country did not go unnoticed. Mrs. Mirinka played a key role in peace negotiations between the PNG and Bougainville governments were she was selected as one of the peace signatories of the Peace Agreement in August 2001, to represent the women of Bougainville.

In 2006, Mrs. Mirinka was appointed Programme Director of the Bougainville Healthy Communities Programme (BHCP) by the Department of Health and New Zealand Leprosy Mission.

Mrs. Mirika holds a Master’s Degree in Management from Vudal University and is proud to serve as a BRC commissioner.

Mr Patrick Nisira

Mr George Manu

Mr Robert Igara