Referendum process ‘free, fair and credible’


AN Australian observer team’s interim assessment of the Bougainville referendum process is that it was “free, fair and credible”, according to Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne.
“I acknowledge the valuable contribution of the 11-strong Australian Observation Mission, led by Jane Prentice,” she said.
“Australia was pleased to support the preparations and conduct of the referendum, alongside the United Nations and other international partners and donors,” she said in a statement yesterday.
“The successful conduct of the referendum concludes one of the three pillars of the 2001 Bougainville peace agreement.
“As Prime Minister James Marape stated, under the agreement, the outcome of the referendum is non-binding and will be subject to consultations between the two governments.
“Australia looks forward to continue productive engagement as the Bougainville Peace process enters its next stage.”
She congratulated the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments, and the people of Bougainville, on the successful conduct of the referendum on the future political status of Bougainville.
The results showed that 97.7 per cent of the voters wanted independence for Bougainville.
Payne praised the work of the independent Bougainville Referendum Commission, chaired by former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, as “integral to the credibility of the polling process”.
“I welcome in particular the effort to achieve an inclusive vote, including ensuring women and people with a disability were able to cast votes unhindered,” she said.