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World’s newest nation: Bougainville votes for independence from Papua New Guinea

This undated hand out picture released by Bougainville Referendum Commission on December 8, 2019 shows young Upe men casting their votes in the Bougainville Referendum at the men's only polling station in Teau Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

This undated hand out picture released by Bougainville Referendum Commission on December 8, 2019 shows young Upe men casting their votes in the Bougainville Referendum at the men's only polling station in Teau Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.   | Photo Credit: AFP

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More than 98% of valid ballots favored independence

The South Pacific region of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly to become the world’s newest nation by gaining independence from Papua New Guinea, results showed on December 11.

Bougainville Referendum Commission Chairman Bertie Ahern was cheered when he announced that more than 98% of valid ballots favored independence. The only other option in the vote was greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea.

The referendum is nonbinding, and independence would then need to be negotiated between leaders from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The final say would then go to lawmakers in the Papua New Guinea Parliament. The process of becoming a separate nation could take years to achieve.

People take part in a non-binding independence referendum in Kunua Community, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea November 29, 2019. Picture taken November 29, 2019.

People take part in a non-binding independence referendum in Kunua Community, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea November 29, 2019. Picture taken November 29, 2019.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

 

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape’s office said he was out of town and was not available for comment.

Around 85% of eligible voters cast more than 181,000 ballots in two weeks of voting.

The referendum is a key part of a 2001 peace agreement that ended a civil war in which at least 15,000 people died in the cluster of islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea mainland.

Residents hold a Bougainville flag at a polling station during a non-binding independence referendum in Arawa, on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville November 26, 2019.

Residents hold a Bougainville flag at a polling station during a non-binding independence referendum in Arawa, on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville November 26, 2019.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

 

The violence in Bougainville began in the late 1980s, triggered by conflict over an enormous opencast copper mine at Panguna. The mine was a huge export earner for Papua New Guinea, but many in Bougainville felt they received no benefit and resented the pollution and disruption of their traditional way of living. The mine has remained shut since the conflict. Some believe it could provide a revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 11:30:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/worlds-newest-nation-bougainville-votes-for-independence-from-papua-new-guinea/article30275124.ece

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