Bougainville’s people vote on leaving Papua New Guinea to become the world’s newest state
▶ A Yes vote is expected among the territory’s 240,000 inhabitants
Bougainvilleans voted in a referendum yesterday to decide if their group of islands will become the world’s newest country.
A Yes vote is highly likely in a referendum among the 240,000 people of the islands that want to cede from Papua New Guinea.
Voters included President John Momis, who praised officials in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville for upholding a peace process that allowed the vote to proceed without issue.
In little more than a century, the flags of Germany, Britain, Australia, Japan, and Papua New Guinea have flown over the islands, which were discovered and named by French explorer Louis de Bougainville before being taken by American whalers.
Rich in copper and not much else, the new state would be exciting news for philatelists, flag collectors, speculators and junior diplomats who fancy a Pacific posting.
It would be big news for the small community of country collectors, who spend their lives in pursuit of setting foot on every independent nation on the planet.
The number of campaigns for the creation of new countries is considerable.
Some of the best-known are Scotland, Catalonia and the Basque Country. Venice, too, has long wished to go its own way as Venezia.
The largest is Cascadia. It brings together the US and Canadian territories of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, with bits of northern California and southern Alaska, Montana and Wyoming. Its flag bears a handsome Douglas fir and it would be the 19th-biggest country in the world by area and about the tenth richest.
Cascadia’s capital would be Seattle and borders would also take in Portland and Vancouver.
The best place to learn about potential new nations is the football body Conifa, a subsidiary of Fifa which brings together stateless peoples. It even has its own World Cup.
The 2014 tournament was won by Contea di Nizza, a hoped-for Riviera state. The Isle of Man sent a team. So did Lapland and Assyria, Franconia and Occitania.
The 2016 tournament was won by mysterious Abkhazia, who beat Panjab in the final. Other competitors included the Roman Province of Raetia in Switzerland, which has a unique grey flag, plus Gozo, Banawa and Matabeleland. South America was represented by Aymara, descendants of the Incas.
One of the newest teams is Szekelyfold, Hungarians in a corner of Romania, who had their first match against Chagossians who were moved out of their Indian Ocean home to make way for a US Navy base.
Monaco is in there. So is Heligoland, Zanzibar, Quebec and mysterious Padonia.
Conifa fixes up games for Tamils, Romanis, Ossetians and the Sorbs.
Last year’s World Cup was won by yet another Ruritanian corner of Hungary called Karpatalya, who were invited at the last minute and won the trophy. But for now, Bougainville holds the centre stage of independence movements.
Bougainvilleans live on islands that have been ruled by five different countries since 1885