VIOLENCE DELAYS PNG VOTING IN SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 28, 2002 – The Australian/AAP)---The troubled Papua New Guinea election will be extended by one week in the Southern Highlands so security can be improved in the gun-infested province.

The national vote, which was to have been completed tomorrow, has been marred by deaths, violence, stolen ballot boxes, multiple voting and incomplete electoral rolls.

Deputy Electoral Commissioner Michael Malabag told the PNG Post-Courier newspaper that the Southern Highlands would not vote until July 5.

The deferral came as the principal helicopter company refused to fly for a second day yesterday, and groundings were expected to continue throughout today.

Pacific Helicopters said neither the Electoral Commission nor the government was able to satisfy the operator in writing that its bills would be paid.

"Still no news," Pacific Helicopters chief pilot Ken Blain said.

"We've heard reports that a check was written for (Western) province, but we still haven't seen it."

Mr. Blain said the company needed A$ 500,000 (US$ 280,000) in debts settled before it would fly ballot boxes and polling officials into remote regions, where about a quarter of PNG's voters live.

Incomplete electoral rolls, transport bungles and voting cheats have led to thousands of citizens already being denied a vote.

*Former Prime Minister Paias Wingti is leading the counting in his Western Highlands electorate. Mr. Wingti is the founder of the People's Democratic Movement, headed by Prime Minister Mekere Morauta.

 

TROUBLED PAPUA NEW GUINEA POLL GOES INTO JULY

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (June 27, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Polling in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands has been further deferred to July 5 as continuing problems stretch the elections beyond the planned two weeks.

Deputy Electoral Commissioner for Operations Michael Malabag said yesterday that police chiefs and Electoral Commission officers agreed to the deferral.

This is to give time for security measures to be implemented before polling begins in the province.

Polling in both Enga and Southern Highlands was initially scheduled for Tuesday and later deferred to today.

In Enga, provincial police commander John Anawe said his men were ready and waiting to move in with polling teams.

Almost 3,000 candidates representing more than 40 parties are competing for 109 parliamentary seats across Papua New Guinea.

Polling across the country is now in its second and what was supposed to be final week.

Meanwhile, the latest election-related death came not in the Highlands but in Gulf Province after a local level government candidate claimed a man did not vote for him.

Southern region police commander Jim Andrews said the candidate from Meporo village was convinced that his relative had not voted for him and hit him on the head with a stick.

At least nine other election-related deaths have been reported, with the major trouble in the Highlands region.

* The president and co-founder of the People¹s Democratic Movement, Thomas Negints, yesterday welcomed the re-election of the Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

Sir Mekere retained his Moresby North-West seat.

"Sir Mekere’s election is the foundation on which PDM will form a new government for the next five years," Mr. Negints said.

"It was a very difficult campaign for the Prime Minister, and all members of the party are delighted that he won so convincingly.

"PDM remains confident that it will form the new government when Parliament resumes, under Sir Mekere’s leadership. The party and the nation need his leadership to continue so that reconstruction and development can continue.

"We are confident that not only will PDM have the largest number of Members of Parliament and therefore will be called upon to form government, but that we have the support of a number of other parties in place now."

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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