Bertie Ahern announces referendum result in Papua New Guinea

Bougainville in favour of independence in non-binding vote

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, in his EU appointed role of Bougainville Referendum Commission chairman, has announced the results of a non-binding independence referendum in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Video: Bougainville Referendum Commission

 

The South Pacific region of Bougainville has voted in a referendum in favour of gaining independence from Papua New Guinea. The result was announced by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who is chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission. Mr Ahern was appointed to the role last December in a peace process that is being supported by the European Union.

The referendum is non-binding and independence will need to be negotiated between leaders from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The final say would then go to MPs in the Papua New Guinea parliament.

Around 85 per cent of eligible voters cast more than 181,000 ballots in two weeks of voting. The referendum is a key part of a 2001 peace agreement that ended a civil war in which at least 15,000 people died in the cluster of islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea mainland.

The violence in Bougainville began in the late 1980s, triggered by conflict over an enormous opencast copper mine at Panguna. The mine was a huge export earner for Papua New Guinea, but many in Bougainville felt they received no benefit and resented the pollution and disruption of their traditional way of living.

The mine has remained shut since the conflict. Some believe it could provide a revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent.

The process of becoming a separate nation could take years to achieve. – AP