In brief

Vote on Bougainville’s independence from Papua New Guinea delayed until October 2019

Secession referendum in Micronesia’s Chuuk indefinitely postponed

An independence referendum to be held in Bougainville 15 June was delayed until 17 October, as announced by John Momis, president of Bougainville, and Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea. Referendum Commission chairman, former Irish PM Bertie Ahern, explained that the postponement is due to financial shortcomings, slowness in the registration of voters, and by legal and technical details that remain to be clarified.

Bougainville will have to decide whether it separates from Papua New Guinea to establish a new sovereign country or it accepts a proposal for enlarged autonomy.

The referendum is the culmination of peace agreements signed between Bougainville and PNG representatives in 2001. At the end of the 1980s an armed conflict erupted between a pro-independence militia (BRA) on one side, and Papua New Guinea troops and loyalist militias on the other. The confrontation emerged out of tensions caused by the operation of a mine in Bougainville and the arrival of Australian and PNG workers.

Analysts point out that “yes” to independence will win. But the final decision on it will be taken by the Parliament of Papua New Guinea.

Chuuk referendum left with no date

Meanwhile, Chuuk has again postponed the holding of a unilateral referendum on independence from the Federated States of Micronesia. The Chuukese government announced in 2015 for the first time that the vote would be held that year, but it later postponed it. In 2018, the Chuukese authorities announced the date of 5 March 2019 to hold the vote. But, again, it has been indefinitely delayed so that its “constitutional implications” can be analysed in further detail, according to the Chuukese authorities.

The Chuukese government claims that it has the right to unilaterally hold a referendum of independence. The Micronesian federal government says the move would be unconstitutional.