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PORT MORESBY, 12 DECEMBER 2019 (RNZ PACIFIC) — Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape has acknowledged the result of the Bougainville independence vote.

In the result announced Wednesday, a 97.7 percent majority voted for independence in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region’s non-binding referendum.

Marape said his government had heard the voice of Bougainvilleans.

Praising the “excellent” conduct of the referendum, he said the next stage in the Bougainville peace process would now begin.

To come into effect, the referendum result must be ratified by PNG’s national parliament.

First, the PNG and Autonomous Bougainville governments are to conduct consultations on the result and its implications.

The consultations will begin early in the New Year, according to the prime minister.

Marape said the two governments must now “develop a road map that leads to lasting political settlement”.

Tomorrow, he is to travel to Arawa in Bougainville, where he’s expected to deliver a speech and sign a joint statement with Bougainville’s president, John Momis.

It’s unclear how long the consultations will take, and transition to independence for Bougainville is still not guaranteed while that process is incomplete…. (PACNEWS)