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It seems likely that a Bougainville independence referendum will take place, based on the steps the Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Bougainville governments have taken so far, although it is unlikely to occur by a June 2019 ‘target’ date. That is according Anthony Regan, who made the prediction to an audience of senior academics, diplomats and public servants from various arms of the Australian government and others, at a well-attend mid-February seminar at Australian National University (ANU).
Mr Regan also advised that the evidence, though mostly anecdotal, points to a strong ‘yes’ vote to the question of independence.
Anthony Regan who is based at ANU’s Department of Pacific Affairs is a constitutional lawyer who specialises in constitutional development as part of conflict resolution. He has lived and worked in PNG 15 years and has been an adviser to Bougainville parties in the Bougainville peace process since 1994.
As well as focusing on the steps that have been taken towards a referendum, Mr Regan discussed some of the mixed signals coming from the PNG Government, and widely shared but inaccurate descriptions of the legalities of the referendum.
In wide-ranging remarks Mr Regan also provided his thoughts on what would and could occur in the immediate aftermath of a referendum, were voters to choose independence. He also discussed some of the issues that an independent Bougainville government would face, in particular a significant shortfall in the finances needed to fund an adequately functioning sovereign government.
The full discussion can be found here.