By Eric Tataw – Washington DC, USA – Thursday, December 12, 2019.
John Momis serving as the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea since 2010 has made a historic comment after a Referendum that saw the Bougainville vote overwhelmingly for independence from Papua New Guinea.
“Now, at least psychologically, we feel liberated,” John Momis said after former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission announced results of a Referendum in the town of Buka with over 98% voting for Independence.
206,731 people enrolled to vote in the referendum of a population of 300,000. A toatal of 181,067 ballots were cast. 176,928 voted for independence, 3,043 voted for greater autonomy and 1,096 were considered void. The parliament of PNG will hold deliberations to decide on the final outcome.
Although the referendum was non-binding – meaning independence won’t be granted automatically to Bougainville after this Referendum results, the landslide victory will most likely put p PNG under pressure to grant independence to Bougainville.
Bougainville is in the Eastern Region of Papua New Guinea, a country in Southwestern Pacific, National Telegraph has gathered. Bougainville Island like it’s called is the main island of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville of Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville was occupied by Australia during World War I but was later administered within the Territory of New Guinea. Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975, and Bougainville unilaterally declared its independence as the Republic of the North Solomons but was never recognized by the international community. Within six months, Papua New Guinea absorbed Bougainville.
The creation of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) led by Francis Ona was as a result of grievances from the Panguna Copper Mine operated by Rio-Tinto, located in Bougainville. The uneven distribution of royalties and the environmental damage the mine was causing in Bougainville led to a revolt in 1988 against the government of Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville fought for over nine years in a separatist war that began in 1988, which ended in a truce leading to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the creation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, with a non-binding referendum on independence. At least over twenty thousand people were killed in that armed conflict.