Vanuatu Police Officers return after Bouganville Referendum

Two officers of the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF), Sergeant Sandrina Bila and Inspector Hamish Garae who represented Vanuatu during the Bougainville referendum have returned home.

Bila and Garae left on October last year for a two weeks Pre-Deployment Training (PDT) in New Zealand (NZ) before heading to Bougainville for the Bougainville Referendum Regional Police Support Mission.

The regional support mission consisted of officers from Australia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and NZ as the head of the mission.

The two Vanuatu officers were based at Buin, a town and capital of South Bougainville District with six NZ counterparts.

Their mission was to provide a neutral, unarmed and non-operational support Bougainville Police Service in accordance with the agreed terms of reference, for the defined period of Bougainville referendum.

They patrolled most of the polling booths ensuring that locals see their presence, as they are there to show support during the special time.

Inspector Garae said the pre-awareness during polling period gave them the advantage of friendly approaches to all locations they visited.

“There were 829 polling stations; 800 in Bougainville and 29 outside Bougainville -Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Solomon,” he said.

The Acting Commissioner of Police for PNG in charge of the operation, Francis Tukura, has thanked the Bougainville Referendum Regional Police Support Mission for its assistance.

Bougainville was embroiled in a civil war between 1988 and 1998 which claimed 15,000 lives.

Peace talks brokered by New Zealand began in 1997 and led to autonomy.

In 2001, a peace agreement was signed including promise of a referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea. This referendum was held between 23 November and 7 December 2019, with results being declared on 11 December.


Photo supplied Caption: Vanuatu Police Force Sergeant Sandrina Bila (left) in Bougainville



Tensly Sumbe