BRC says farewell with handover of final report

The Bougainville Referendum Commission today formally wound up operations and presented its final report to the government and parliament of Papua New Guinea.

At a formal ceremony in Port Moresby today, the Commission presented to the Prime Minister Hon. James Marape its Final Report and an historic photo book, In Pictures – the story of the Bougainville referendum. A similar handover ceremony to Bougainville President Chief Dr John Momis will be conducted later this week.

BRC and PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said it had been a very good process, and an honour and privilege for the Chair, Hon. Bertie Ahern, and all six commissioners to be a part of.

“While the peace process continues, the electoral event is now complete and the Commission has now been formally shut down as per its Charter,” Mr Gamato said.

“As we say farewell, we leave with you our Final Report. It contains, as by law, an independent audit of BRC accounts, a list of our few distributed assets, and our view of the referendum process from enrolment, polling and the count, including some lessons and reflections which deserve special mention.”

The Commission also presented both governments and parliaments with a pictorial account of the referendum, In Pictures – the story of the Bougainville referendum. Five thousand copies have been produced and will be provided to public institutions, schools and universities, together with a framed commemorative poster for both the Bougainville and National Archives.

BRC Chair and former Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, said of the referendum that the Commission had always understood it to be a unique event for both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

“The peaceful vote signalled the end of the just the latest step in the long-standing Bougainville-Papua New Guinea peace process,” Mr Ahern said.

“While we were responsible for administering a free, fair and credible vote, the outcome was absolutely the work of many; too many individuals and groups to mention here. However, we hope that both the Final Report and the In Pictures publication adequately document what has been an enormous and successful event by a nation, it’s people and its leaders.”

Mr Gamato said that with the support and resources of both governments and the international community that the referendum has ‘raised the bar’ for electoral events.

“We were proud to provide voters with a comprehensive roll and highly accessible polling,” Mr Gamato said.

“However, this inevitably raises expectations for future elections, so we call on the public to continue to engage with every electoral event, and indeed the ongoing referendum process, in the same peaceful and engaged manner as we saw during the referendum.”

Mr Ahern said he wished both leaders the very best as they commence post-referendum negotiations.

“As I sign off as Chair, I sincerely wish both governments and the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea, and indeed the international community that has support the peace process to date, all the very best as they embark on the next steps, guided, and perhaps even empowered by the Melanesian Way.

“The referendum result will bring more hard work. But I’m confident that what I have witnessed and learnt is a resilience and an unwavering commitment to peace by peaceful means.”

Printed copies of the BRC Final Report (1,500) and In Pictures (5,000) will be provided to the two governments for distribution to both parliaments, libraries, universities, schools, and national and Bougainville archives. Electronic copies can be downloaded from the BRC website which will remain an archived, static site maintained by the National Research Institute of Papua New Guinea. The BRC Facebook and Twitter pages will be shutdown in the coming weeks.

Download BRC Final Report and In Pictures

Background information

A writ for a referendum on Bougainville was issued by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea on 27 September 2019. On 11 December the Commission announced the following results:

  • 181,067 votes in total were cast in the referendum
  • 176,928 votes were cast in favour of independence
  • 3,043 votes were cast in favour of greater autonomy

No petitions against the result were lodged during the designated period.