By Meriba Tulo – EMTV News, Arawa
The Bougainville Referendum Commission has made it clear it may need time to ensure that the referendum roll is credible, for the Autonomous Region’s planned referendum later this year.
BRC Chairman Bertie Ahern made this known when addressing a public awareness in Arawa Tuesday afternoon.
In responding to questions on whether the BRC was considering an extension to the date of polling for the referendum, which at present is scheduled for October 12th, Ahern alluded to the need for the BRC to be certain that the referendum roll was credible – particularly in light of a recent upsurge in enrolment numbers, both within Bougainville, and outside of the Autonomous Region.
“We have to be certain that the (referendum) process is credible. I want to be very clear on this – If I have to sign my name so that I can say to you that this is free, fair and absolutely done, then I need time.”
The six-member BRC will meet in Buka this Friday, to firm up its stance on the proposal to extend the referendum period – with Chairman Ahern reaffirming that any delay will only be for a few weeks, and be held in 2019.
“…I can tell you that this (referendum) will be finished this year (2019). But to do it the way people are asking and requesting (for an extension of referendum roll verification) I need time.”
A decision on whether to extend the referendum period past the scheduled set-date of October 12th has been identified as a priority for the BRC in its discussions with both the ABG and National Government.
A final decision on this expected to be made when a Special Joint Supervisory Body meeting is convened in the next few weeks, upon the request of the ABG.
Chairman Ahern arrived in Arawa Tuesday afternoon, accompanied by all Six BRC Commissioners, to embark on awareness in the three regional capitals of Arawa in Central Bougainville, Buin in South Bougainville, and Buka in North Bougainville.