A SMALL island off the coast of Papua New Guinea looks set to become a new independent nation after a vote for independence resulted in what can only be described as an overwhelming landslide in favour of the proposition.
Former Taoiseach of Ireland, Bertie Ahern, is the Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, likely approahced due to his involvement in the historic peace process which resulted in the Good Friday Agreement being signed in Northern Ireland.
Mr Ahern presided over the vote and declared the results in Bougainville in the Northern Solomon Island yesterday, Wednesday 11th December.
In an incredible display of unity from the island, the vote passed with 176,928 people in support of becoming an independent country with just 3,043 voters indicating a preference to remain a part of Papua New Guinea with more autonomy allowances.
According to RTÉ, as Mr Ahern announced the results the people of Bougainville burst into cheers, applause and renditions of the island's anthem 'My Bougainville'.
VIDEO: Chairman of the #Bougainville Referendum Commission Bertie Ahern announces that 176,928 people -- around 98 percent of voters -- backed independence from Papua New Guinea with just 3,043 supporting the option of remaining with more autonomy pic.twitter.com/dmJCjuY1CY
— AFP news agency (@AFP) December 11, 2019
The history of the island will resonate with the people of Ireland: this vote was the result of decades of violence, where a ten-year civil war between Bougainville rebels and Papua New Guinea security forces between 1988-1998 left 20,000 people dead.
While the vote is not binding, the fact that an overwhelming majority-- 98%, in fact-- of voters clearly want independence, there is pressure on the Papua New Guinea government to recognise the result.
Speaking in Burka after the annoucement of the results, Mr Ahern appeared to urge the Papa New Guinean parliamanent to accept the vote, which he said was about "your peace, your history and your future" and which illustrated "the power of the pen over weapons", RTÉ reports.