Bougainville has voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea, with more than 97 per cent in favour of autonomy. Some remarked that days of heavy rain preceding Saturday’s vote were a sort of “baptism” for a community that still vividly remembers the pain of conflict. ", Eddie Mohin has been campaigning for independence for years, and hailed the day as a victory. ", When asked if the issue was now resolved, he gave an emphatic "Yes.". They wanted to make sure the issue of fighting for independence was put to rest. The region is named after Bougainville Island, the largest island of the Solomon Islands archipelago, but also contains a number of smaller islands. Supporters of full independence are expected to win handily, although without reliable opinion polls, a surprise is always possible. Some in the region worry that the Papua New Guinea government will push back and try to block the secession -- Mohin accused the mainland of wanting to "keep the resources on the island.". Joyous voters in the Pacific island chain of Bougainville cheered and sang as they flocked to the polls Saturday at the start of a long-awaited referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea. The Pacific island chain of Bougainville has begun voting in a long-awaited referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG). Bougainville is an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea. Bougainville's conman 'king' still on the run as island edges closer to independence Ten years ago, ABC journalist Liam Fox met Bougainville's self … Joyous voters in the Pacific island chain of Bougainville cheered and sang as they flocked to the polls Saturday at the start of a long-awaited referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea. About 207,000 Bougainvilleans are registered to vote on whether Melanesian isles will become world’s newest country. On September 1, 1975, the people of Bougainville raised the flag and declared independence as the Republic of the North Solomons. Women and children wear traditional dress at a referendum polling station in Buka, Bougainville, on November 25, 2019. Many factors will need to be considered -- for instance, the terms of trade, travel, and residence. "All along (the desire for independence) was in my blood," he said. As a Bougainvillean and a Papua New Guinean, I am less concerned about Greater Autonomy, Independence (or the ‘Third Choice’ whatever it might be). New Zealand is leading an international unarmed police contingent for the vote, backed by fellow witnesses to the 2001 peace agreement: Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Mohin said he and other activists will begin building the region's economy, educational system, and health services, in preparation for an independent future. It was an emotional moment for me. However, Peake cautioned that more complex work lies ahead, and that the fight has only been half won. IT was an emotional day for Bougainvilleans when the results of the referendum showed most people were in favour of independence. Voters gather at a polling station in Buka to cast their ballot in the Bougainville independence referendum. There were failed attempts at independence then, before simmering discontent erupted into a nine-year civil war that left thousands of people dead. "That's all.". The 20-year itch Bougainville has voted for independence, but may not get it The restive province of Papua New Guinea has waited since 2001 for a referendum Asia Dec 18th 2019 edition "We just want everybody to respect our people's choice and give us what we want," he said. "People have been waiting for the opportunity to cast their vote for a long time. Preparations for the voting were peaceful, and in recent weeks once-sworn enemies have taken part in tearful reconciliation ceremonies, where arrows were snapped to symbolise the end of a vicious conflict. A decade-long civil war in the 1990s, often referred to as the ‘Bougainville crisis’ (those familiar with the Lloyd Jones novel Mr Pip will recognise the setting) devastated the region. Bougainville has voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea. Francesca Semoso, women’s representative and deputy speaker of the ABG House of Representatives, in Buka on the opening day of voting in the Bougainville independence referendum. “Another step before that though will take place here in the PNG Parliament, where the government also needs to approve any outcome.”. The choice before voters is between an enhanced version of the current autonomy arrangements or independence. Today many of Bougainville’s 206,000 eligible voters are moving towards one of 800 polling stations across the territory on its first day of voting. Supporters of full independence are expected to win handily, although without reliable opinion polls, a surprise is always possible. Voting information pamphlets at a polling station in the Bougainville capital Buka on November 22, 2019. Yet there’s few outward signs of PTSD.