PNG POLICE BRACE FOR ‘ANYTHING’ IN ELECTIONS

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By Andrew Alphonse

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 25) - Security force personnel engaged to provide security for the 2007 elections have been warned against taking bribes from candidates.

Addressing about 3,000 security personnel in Mt Hagen last Saturday after the biggest parade in PNG’s history, Police Commissioner Gari Baki said members of the disciplined forces had sworn an oath to protect and serve members of the public and this oath will be very important during the national election.

[PIR editor’s note: PNG's elections are scheduled June 30 to July 10 with 2,740 candidates including 91 women contesting 109 seats in PNG's parliament. Poll security is a major concern and thousands of police and soldiers are to be on hand to prevent a repeat of the 2002 elections, marked by violence, fraud and intimidation in the Highlands region.]

Mr. Baki warned that candidates and their supporters would be doing anything to get into office including the use of force, threats and bribery.

He said there had been instances in the past where candidates had bribed the entire polling and security officials to allow them to have things done their way.

"Make no mistake. You members will be approached. You will be offered money. You may even be threatened. But I ask each one of you to stand firm. Do not sell yourselves. Do not lose your dignity and self respect. Do not be bribed."

He urged the security forces to remember that no amount of money can buy back their dignity and self-respect.

"If you receive PGK50 [US$17.36] now, you will be branded for life as a corrupt, useless, good-for-nothing police, Defence or correctional officer. People will lose their respect for you. They will talk behind your back and laugh at you. This will affect your families, especially your wives and children," Baki said.

He urged them not to take sides with any candidate but provide an environment where people can cast their votes without fear or undue influence.

He also warned candidates and their supporters against violence, threats and intimidation.

He said they were ready to provide an environment free from threats, intimidation, undue influence and foul play.

"We will not, I repeat, we will not tolerate threats, intimidation or any foul play during the elections. You have one vote, go in, cast your vote and go home," Baki said.

But he said he expected a free, fair and trouble-free election.

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