By Annette Kora – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville was celebrated in style today in Port Moresby at the Sir John Guise Stadium. Port Moresby residents took to the stage their traditional and contemporary dancing and singsings as the day progressed. Possibly their last AROB day celebrated in Port Moresby amidst the hype of the celebrations, registration was being carried out and facilitated by the PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Referendum Commission for NON-Bougainville Resident mostly Port Moresby residents.
Today not only marked the day Bougainvilleans celebrate their culture and tradition but also a big deal for most Port Moresby based Bougainville residents as they braved todays heat to get themselves registered before the Referendum in the region.
Initially, the target date was set for June 15, 2019 which is today but due to several issues which continued to hamper preparations by relevant authorities and agencies, including the recently established Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), the date for referendum has been pushed back to October 12, 2019.
Commissioner for BRC, Robert Igera, said the registration time-frame for non-Bougainville residents who mostly are based in Port Moresby started today 15th June and is expected to complete by the 1st of July.
Registration for Bougainvilleans in other provinces in PNG will follow suit in the coming weeks. He adds that although everything is moving forward as expected, there is still quite more to be done with regards to awareness in the region and more people need to be made aware of what independence and full autonomy truly means and how this could play out for them.
He highlighted for the referendum process to be respected and conducted within the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement as this will determine the political future of this Island Region.
Today saw the first phase of the process beginning in Port Moresby given the recommended allowance to postpone the target date by three months to allow preparations to be thoroughly completed – a recommendation that was agreed to by both Governments in the last Joint Supervisory Body meeting in March.