As part of an ongoing joint initiative between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported the Second Joint Referendum Awareness Roadshow from the 14th–18th June in the Autonomous Regional of Bougainville (ARoB).
The roadshow coincided with the first official visit to Bougainville of the newly appointed Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu.
“After one week of being appointed your Minister for Bougainville Affairs I am here in Bougainville addressing you in Arawa on this special day – the 14th anniversary of the first ABG government. Representing the new Marape Steven Government, I want to assure you that we are together in this process. The Peace Agreement is a joint creation and we are committed to seeing it through”, Minister Sir Puka Temu said during his first public appearance in Bougainville.
The Roadshow visited five locations across South, Central and North Bougainville, including Arawa, Torokina, Wakunai, Tinputz and finishing in Kunua. The emphasis of the roadshow was on what the descriptions of the two referendum options actually mean. the Roadshow also updated the public on the Post-Referendum Taskforce established by the two governments to ensure a peaceful and smooth transition after the vote is held.
“The two governments have defined the two options that will be on the ballot paper that is Greater Autonomy and Independence”, Minister
Pughau told the people during the Roadshow.
The Roadshow format is designed to facilitate meetings with a range of stakeholders and to provide an opportunity for people to ask questions to their political leaders.
“As a women’s group leader from Tinputz, I would like to ask the leaders how women will be involved and can participate in the post referendum task force?” asked one member of the audience. Other questions included voter eligibility, why the referendum is non-binding and the engagement of the Me’ekamui during the process.
The Joint Roadshow has so far covered 10 out of 13 districts in Bougainville, reaching approximately 15,000 people, with both local and national media and radio providing wider coverage.
A third Roadshow is tentatively planned for the end of July to cover the three remaining districts.
In addition to Minister Temu and Minister Pughau the roadshow is supported by the National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs (NCOBA) Acting Director John Anuma and Mr. James Tanis, former President of Bougainville and current NCOBA consultant.
UNDP in Papua New Guinea, through the Peacebuilding Fund, will continue to support the two Governments and key stakeholders in the implementation of the Peace Agreement; in particular with support to dialogue, referendum and BPA awareness, post-referendum planning and weapons disposal.