Bougainville. Papua New Guinea press review

The State of Emergency (SoE) has been extended for the fourth time to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB). The SoE was to finish on the 14th of August but ARB Ministers agreed to extend it for another 21 days. The SoE includes restrictions on movement and requirements for social distancing, despite the election that is now underway in ARB. A week ago Bougainville registered its first positive COVID-19 case when an infected student returned from the mainland. [1]

In turn, SoE Controller on Bougainville, Francis Tokura has been issued supplementary Order 11, regarding travelling into Bougainville by air:

(a) It is compulsory that all intending travellers into Bougainville who show and are confirmed by a medical practitioner to have influenza like illness and severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) shall undergo a COVID-19 test 48 to 72 hours before departing their port of origin.

(b) It is compulsory that all intending travellers into Bougainville are to obtain quarantine medical clearance certificate 48 to 72 hours before departing their port of origin.

(c) The quarantine medical clearance certificate shall be surrendered upon check-in time with the airline carrier, with an approval letter from the Bougainville SoE controller.

(d) A passenger, who fails to produce these mandatory documents, be immediately denied check-in an boarding.

(e) Travellers will undergo a mandatory clinical/medical examination and sample collection at the port of arrival.

2. An airline operator shall operate a weekly regular passenger transport flight into Buka airport;
3. Additional regular passenger transport flight include freighter, charter, and medivac shall only be operated upon prior approval from the Bougainville SoE Controller;
4. All travelers by air into Bougainville shall comply with the following orders:
(a) It is mandatory for inbound and outbound travellers to obtain prior approval from the Bougainville SoE Controller.
On the 18th of August 2020 the 4th Autonomous Bougainville Government elections ended. The polling has been lasted five days. As stated Bougainville Electoral Commissioner George Manu: «The filled out ballot boxes from the National Capital District, Madang, Morobe, Eastern Highlands and East and West New Britain will be transported to Buka». [2]

On the 19th of August 2020, there was be supplementary polling for voters on Bougainville for those who didn’t vote due to their names missing on the common roll. According to Mr. Manu, voting in some areas may also continue as they had faced transportation problems. According to reports in South and Central Bougainville, polling was smooth despite minor hiccups. « In North Bougainville, there were allegations of vote-rigging from certain candidates, » Mr. Manu said and also added that the social networks painted bad image on this election. «My officers and I will not be influenced by Facebook […] On the other hand we will not turn a blind eye on these allegations, » Mr. Manu noted. [3-4]

The ARB Electoral Commissioner has moved to allay fears about irregularities in the ARB’s election. In terms of the first complaint, Mr. Manu marked that returning officer had been spotted moving ballot boxes, but they were empty and the officer simply needed to move them. In the second incident a voter, who happened to be a candidate, was given a ballot with the name of another candidate already ticked off. Mr. Manu said that he was satisfied this was an isolated case. « You know the stakes are very high in this election. There are a lot of very good candidates who are running for this election so the government that is going to be formed after these elections is the government that is going to take Bougainville forward, » Mr. Manu noted. The ARB Electoral Commissioner hoped to have some international observers for the vote but, to date had to rely on locals to monitor the process. The election is set to finish on 1 September. [5-6] [1]

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