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Bougainville referendum dates changed, voting on 23 November

The date for issue of writs for the Bougainville referendum vote has been changed for the second time.

Prime Minister James Marape and acting Bougainville President Raymond Masono jointly announced the change in Port Moresby at the weekend.

They released a joint signed statement for the referendum vote which has been deferred to 23 November, now marked as the polling date. This means that the writs will now be issued on 27 September, a six-week extension which both the national government and Bougainville government had promised would be the last extension and deferment.

On Friday, it was released that the two government leaders, Marape and Masono, upon the advice from the Bougainville Referendum Commission chairman Bertie Ahern had agreed to defer the referendum dates by six weeks for the purpose of guaranteeing the credibility of the referendum role for all to vote. Both governments said there would be no more extension. This means that the new dates are:

*Issue of writs deferred from 16 August to 27 September; and

*Voting deferred from 12 October to 23 November 23.

“We now encourage all Bougainvilleans to make use of this extension to enrol at all designated sites in Bougainville, PNG, Cairns, Brisbane, Gizo and Honiara,” both leaders said.

Meanwhile, the Bougainville Referendum Commission has invited applications from local and national groups to observe the conduct of the referendum.

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said observer groups provide a critical role in the democratic process by observing whether the conduct of polling and counting is free and fair according to international standards.

“We encourage the participation of local, national and international groups in the referendum, to observe the process, and provide their independent report of polling and counting so that the referendum process is seen as a credible one by all involved,” Claudio said.

For the referendum, the three groups are defined as follows:

*Local observer group: a group based in Bougainville, that is not affiliated with any interest groups.

*National observer group: a group based elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, that is not affiliated with any interest groups.

* International observer group, a group based outside of Papua New Guinea that has no affiliation with any interest groups. This includes diplomatic missions or offices of intergovernmental organisations with offices in PNG who have been invited by the national government.

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