Bougainville independence hopes rise as vote counting begins

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Bougainville will start counting votes on Tuesday in its independence referendum, officers mentioned, amid expectations that the island as soon as ravaged by battle will overwhelmingly again independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Outcomes are anticipated to be launched on Thursday after the non-binding vote, held from November 23 to December 7, underneath a 2001 peace pact struck within the aftermath of a decade-long conflict between Bougainville’s insurgent fighters and PNG forces that led to 1998.

Bougainville Vice {President} Raymond Masono mentioned he anticipated that an “overwhelming” variety of the 207,000 voters will assist independence, however the area would want to rebuild its establishments.

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“We envisage an extended interval of transition,” Masono informed Reuters.

“Bougainville isn’t prepared for independence now, as a result of we don’t have the state establishments established. We’re taking a look at 10 years.”

The civil battle over the now-closed Panguna gold and copper mine in what was as soon as the useful resource coronary heart of PNG killed about 20,000 folks.

Referendum outcomes will set off negotiations between the 2  governments on the phrases of separation.

The AFP information company reported joyous scenes when the polling stations opened two weeks in the past, with Bougainvilleans requested to decide on between larger autonomy or independence from PNG.

There aren’t any dependable exit polls, however it’s extensively anticipated voters will return a end in favour of independence.

Dialogue over how Bougainville would maintain its independence is more likely to dominate the talks, two PNG ministers have informed Reuters Information Company.

Poll papers from totally different areas had been blended earlier than counting to eradicate the chance of reprisals.

“The vote will recognise the voice of all folks of Bougainville – slightly than by area,” chief referendum officer Mauricio Claudio mentioned in an announcement.

There may be nervousness amongst some within the PNG capital, Port Moresby, that Bougainville might set a precedent and spur different independence actions.

However rejection dangers rekindling outdated feuds and scuttling the peace course of.

New Zealand leads a global unarmed police contingent for the vote, backed by different witnesses to the 2001 peace settlement: Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Claudio mentioned voting had gone “higher than we anticipated” with little incident.