DECISION TO DEFER PNG ELECTIONS UP TO COMMISSION: O’NEILL

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Security issues, incomplete voter roll hamper process

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 28, 2012) – The national elections – only nine weeks away – will only be deferred on the advice from the PNG Electoral Commission and the Police.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told Post-Courier that his Government or Parliament would not rush into deferring the national elections because of concerns surrounding the update of the common roll as well as security for the polls.

"The Electoral Commission has briefed the Chief Secretary who has briefed the Government and Members of Parliament. There are serious concerns over the update of the Common Roll.

"There are reports that 40 percent of eligible voters in the country are missing from the Common Roll. There is also perception that ghost names are appearing on the Common Roll. This is a serious breach on the rights of citizens to vote. We must understand that the quality of the Common Roll will determine the quality of leadership voted to Parliament after the elections," Mr. O’Neill said.

He said it was important that the Common Roll was updated properly. He also said given the recent political issues that PNG was faced with, the security arrangements for the elections was another concern.

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, PNG's Transparency International group has called for the elections to proceed as scheduled, despite concerns over delays, based on reports that the electoral rolls were "as ready as they had ever been." Transparency International members also alleged that some political figures may be using the delay to hang onto their positions before facing "the judgment of their electorates."]

Mr. O’Neill said the PNG Electoral Commission, the Police Force and the PNG Defence Force were working together to overcome the security issues before the elections.

"We have asked the Australian Government to assist and they have promised to provide personal and equipment to assist to bring back the integrity into the election process. We will be advised by the Chief Secretary, the Commander of the PNGDF and the Police Commissioner and off course, the Electoral Commissioner himself on how we can assist," the prime minister said.

"Our Government stands ready to put in the resources to make sure that the elections are delivered on time but again, we have not learnt from the 2002 and 2007 elections, where we leave the update of the Common Roll to the last minute," Mr. O’Neill said.

He said the Common Roll should be update earlier before the election starts to deliver good leaders that the country deserves.

"The elections must be fair and free so that the leaders elected reflect the wishes of the people and not individuals who manipulate the system to get into Parliament," he said.

Mr. O’Neill said these were concerns that the Government had but it was working with relevant agencies to deliver the elections on time.

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