Bougainville Referendum News : Bougainville taking steps towards the referendum

 

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“Discontent over the electoral roll among the general public was often expressed in terms of national identity. One community leader stated: ‘If your name is not on the roll, this means you are not Bougainvillean’. This suggests the issue with the roll constitutes much more than a technical problem. In the lead-up to the referendum on independence, amending the electoral roll must be a priority. Unless significant effort is put towards not only improving the quality of the electoral roll but also affirming public faith in its integrity, there could be serious repercussions for the referendum process.”

Kerryn Baker and Thiago Cintra Oppermann (see ANU article Below )

A MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT

Nisira

Panguna Meekamui Leader declares support to the Referendum Preparations

Mr Moses Pipiro, Commander of the Meekamui Defence Force that has territorial control over the giant Panguna Mine has thrown his weight behind the ABG preparations for conduct of a free and fair referendum on the Bougainville future political status with a choice for separate independence for Bougainville as agreed in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

He presented to a small delegation of officers from the Department of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace, a five member Meekamui Working group that is tasked with producing a Meekamui schedule for awareness, reconciliation and weapons disposal as well as their views on reopening of Panguna Mine.

Mr Pipiro agrees that it is important that Bougainville must be free from fear of guns and that Bougainville needs a massive economic boost to fund its government and people of the choice was in favour of Meekamui aspiration for independent Bougainville. “Meekamui stands in support of the ABG to enable Bougainville fulfil its commitments to the Peace Agreement,” assured Mr Pipiro.

On the whole Central Bougainville is immediately taking steps to ensure their constituencies can be referendum ready. Vice Minister of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace and Member for South Nasio, Hon Simon Dasiona as of last week has engaged in consultations with senior Ex Combatant leaders to move towards a post ABG reconciliation for Presidential Candidates from Central Bougainville with the ABG President, Hon Chief John Momis. He firmly believes that Bougainville Ex Combatant leaders must be united with the Political leadership to achieve peace in the referendum process for a powerful outcome.

VICE PRESIDENTS MISSION TO PORT MORESBY

After tasking his Vice Minister, the Ministry and the Department of Referendum, Veterans Affairs and Peace to engage in ground consultations for the preparation of the conduct of the referendum Hon. Patrick Nisira departed for Port Moresby on a similar mission at the National Government level and the International Community.

Hon Nisira’s mission to Port Moresby has four objectives. To establish departmental contacts with political and administrative heads of PNG National Government and agencies that may be relevant in implementing the Bougainville referendum. This will help ABG to gain a better understanding of the conduct of the Bougainville Referendum and the consequent ratification of the relationship with the PNG National Government counterparts to ensure that peace prevails in the post referendum period. In this mission the Vice President will update the relevant PNG National Government partners on the Ministerial and Departmental broad frame work of Bougainville preparations for the conduct of the Bougainville referendum.

Bougainville Peace Agreement is a Joint Creation of the PNG Government and the people of Bougainville therefore we must work hand in hand to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The Vice President also stated that in this trip he will establish direct contacts with diplomatic missions in Port Moresby to ensure that the international community receives briefs on the ground situation on Bougainville in terms of preparation.

“My mandate as the Minister is to ensure that Bougainville meets its part of the bargain under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and to help me do that I must know how my counterparts are preparing and also that I must have fair idea of the trend of world politics today. I am confident my ministry and department will deliver on the Bougainville commitments to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Mr Nisira said.

The Vice President returns to Bougainville over the weekend and will proceed immediately to Central and South Bougainville areas to link to the ground teams there.

Bougainville looks towards the referendum

31 July 2015

Bougainville went to the polls in May 2015 for the third Autonomous Bougainville Government election since the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed in 2001. The election was a significant political milestone for the region, marking the beginning of a five-year window in which a referendum on independence is scheduled to be held. It also saw the first woman member of the House of Representatives to be elected in an open seat, Josephine Getsi of Peit constituency.
Elections were held for the seats in the House of Representatives and for the presidency of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In the house there are 33 open seats, three seats reserved for women, and three seats reserved for ex-combatants. Each voter has four ballots: for the presidency, for their constituency, and for their regional women’s and ex-combatant representatives. The election used a system of limited preferential voting, in which voters rank their top three preferred candidates on each ballot.Bougainville presents significant logistical challenges when it comes to election administration. While there were some considerable issues, overall the election was relatively peaceful. For the most part, the result was accepted by the Bougainvillean people. Despite delays, both polling and counting were completed within their respective designated two-week periods. The success of the election was due in large part to the community goodwill towards the electoral process within Bougainville.Campaigning kicked off with nominations on 30 March, which included colourful motorcades and some of the largest rallies seen in the campaign. A total of 342 candidates nominated, including 35 women. Only 12 of these women were contesting open seats; the remainder competed for the three seats reserved for women. Nine men, and no women, contested the presidency.Campaigning was mostly peaceful. The presidential race was dominated by the issues of the referendum, good governance and economic development, with mining also significant in certain regions. None of the presidential candidates campaigned for autonomy. Candidates differed as to how forcefully they proposed independence from Papua New Guinea but all argued in its favour. The referendum was thus discussed mostly in terms of candidates representing themselves as the best option to achieve a successful referendum.

In Bougainville, ‘good governance’ has acquired the character of a piety that nobody disowns, but its practice is another matter. Candidates defending their seats faced barrages of (credible and not-so-credible) accusations of corruption. Often the absence of visible delivery of services by a politician was construed as evidence of corruption in itself; yet the delivery of some services was also labelled corrupt by some. According to one such critic, ‘the work of a politician is to pass laws and set policy, not to give schools’ – yet even this critic went on to complain that his approach to a politician for funds had been rebuffed.

The expectation that politicians will personally deliver services, resentment at preferential gifting, and pervasive, politicised rumour of corruption are all facets of an underlying political economy of distribution and its discontents. This is deeply enmeshed at all levels of Bougainvillean society, from the state to the household. It is extremely difficult for politicians and voters to extricate themselves from expectations and obligations to present and receive ‘gifts.’

The pervasiveness of this politics of distribution poses a particular challenge to women. The political economy of gifting is fundamentally gendered and favours men, while women are expected and encouraged to be ‘clean’ candidates. This emphasis on women’s ‘purity’ means that harsh judgement falls on women who act in ways that would be tolerated or even welcomed in the case of men. While some women — including Josephine Getsi and a few others who placed highly — performed exceptionally well, most of the women who contested races against men polled last or second-to-last.

One major issue arising from the election was the quality of the electoral roll. Issues with the roll have also been noted in past elections. But as Bougainville looks toward a referendum by 2020, the extent of these problems in 2015 was of particular concern. Many people were turned away from polling stations because their names did not appear on the final roll, including many who claimed to have voted in previous elections. In all regions, many appeared to have been disenfranchised; at some polling stations, observations showed up to three in ten people being turned away.

Discontent over the electoral roll among the general public was often expressed in terms of national identity. One community leader stated: ‘If your name is not on the roll, this means you are not Bougainvillean’. This suggests the issue with the roll constitutes much more than a technical problem. In the lead-up to the referendum on independence, amending the electoral roll must be a priority. Unless significant effort is put towards not only improving the quality of the electoral roll but also affirming public faith in its integrity, there could be serious repercussions for the referendum process.

Kerryn Baker and Thiago Cintra Oppermann are research fellows in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.

One comment on “Bougainville Referendum News : Bougainville taking steps towards the referendum

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