Weather causes delays in Bougainville vote

From NETANI RIKA on Buka, Bougainville

HEAVY rain and rough seas overnight have delayed the delivery of ballot boxes and voting officials to a number of small atolls off the Bougainville coast.

Bougainville Referendum Commissioner, Mauricio Claudio, said the vote would take place on the atolls once staff could be transported safely to the region.

“This (adverse weather) is not unusual,’’ Claudio said.

“We know that the weather in Bougainville sometimes is not conducive, but we have contingency plans in place. We have a two-week polling period and we cannot expect conditions to be perfect.

“The safety of our staff is paramount, and we will eventually get the boxes and staff to all the polling stations.”

Claudio said polling would be rescheduled at venues where voting could not take place on the original dates.

He described voting at Gizo in the Solomon Islands and Cairns in Australia as tranquil and peaceful.

“Historically, this is the first time polling has been offered to Papua New Guinea nationals outside the country,” Claudio said.

“In Gizo there have been 23 voters and voting will continue there and in Cairns for two days before moving to Honiara and Brisbane.”

There are 311 voters registered in Australia and the Solomon Islands and 375 requests for postal ballots had been received.

Claudio said the commission continued to see good numbers at the polling booths and there had been no reports of security breaches or voting irregularities.

He said while queues at stations were long, the polling was conducted in a generally peaceful, patient manner.

Weather reports predict rain in the central parts of Bougainville and officials have predicted some logistical challenges in the area later this week.

  • Netani Rika travelled to Bougainville with the support of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat