151018 BRC chair arrives to a rousing welcome in Buka on Saturday

THE chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), His Excellency Bertie Ahern was accorded a rousing traditional welcome at the Buka Airport on Saturday.

Mr Ahern was on his first official visit to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville following his recent appointment as the chairman of BRC by the leaders of both the National Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government.

ABG President Dr Chief John Momis when welcoming Mr Ahern at the airport, commended the former Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Ireland for accepting the chairmanship responsibility, before pledging ABG’s commitment towards supporting the work of the BRC.

Following his arrival, Mr Ahern and his delegation then had a short discussion with President Momis and some of his cabinet ministers including Albert Punghau (Peace Agreement Implementation), Willie Masiu (Justice), Thomas Paátaku (Education), Dennis Lokonai (Health) and Nicholas Darku (Primary Industries).

They also paid a courtesy call to the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives, Simon Pentanu.

Today saw Mr Ahern chairing the first BRC commissioners meeting in Buka.

This meeting was both historic and a milestone achievement for BRC as it was the first time that all seven BRC commissioners had convened and participated in a BRC meeting to discuss issues of importance relating to the conduct of the Bougainville Referendum.

Before that, the BRC Transitional Committee (BRCTC) was responsible for the planning and implementation of all referendum-related activities that have already been implemented.

The BRCTC was co-chaired by both the electoral commissioners of PNG and Bougainville.

The BRC is the body that will be responsible for conducting the referendum that will be held to decide the future political status of Bougainville.

Apart from chairman Bertie Ahern, the other BRC members include PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato, Bougainville Electoral Commissioner George Manu, Dr Thomas Webster, Robert Igara, Patrick Nisira and Ruby Miringka.

Dr Webster and Mr Igara are representing the National Government while Mr Nisira and Ruby Miringka are representatives of ABG.

Mr Ahern and his delegation departed Buka for Port Moresby this afternoon.