The referendum’s result in the South Pacific region of Bougainville showed that residents overwhelmingly supported idea of gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.
Independence of Bougainville becomes closer after the recent referendum. Bertie Ahern, the Referendum Commission head, has confirmed that more than 98% of valid ballots favoured independence. On Tuesday, that news made headlines.
According to the local authorities, there were only two options in the bulletin: to support independence from Papua New Guinea and the greater autonomy from Papua New Guinea.
Under current law, the referendum is nonbinding, and independence comes mot too easy. That important move should 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. If it will be successful, Bougainville will be the newest ever nation in the world.
Around 85% of eligible voters cast more than 181,000 ballots in two weeks of voting.
Bougainville and Papua New Guinea: conflict is still not resolved
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.
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 copper mine has remained shut since the conflict has started. According to financial experts, it could provide a revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent. However, the possible newest nation will face many other problems, social, financial and political, prior to gaining a real independence.