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

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - DAVID REYNOLDS

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.

AFP

Bougainvil­leans live on is­lands that have been ruled by five dif­fer­ent coun­tries since 1885

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