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Trawen blames Government for preparation challenges

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 29, 2012) – The Papua New Guinea 2012 General Elections will proceed as planned.

Already 75 percent of the Electoral Roll is complete – the remaining 25 percent should be completed in two months.

PNG Electoral Commissioner (PNGEC) Andrew Trawen announced this yesterday, adding "the Election 2012 will proceed as required by the National Constitution" and that the preparations were on schedule.

The Government and its bureaucracy should also be blamed for delaying the operations of the data collection throughout the country for not releasing the much needed funds on time. The delay in the release of funds resulted in the PNGEC not conducting Electoral Roll field and data collection between December 2011 and January of this year, Mr. Trawen said.

He said, "The dates of the national election are fixed as per the National Constitution. Therefore, to delay or defer the 2012 elections will be unconstitutional as Section 105 (10 (a) of the Constitution and the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government elections will have to be amended."

"The preparations for the 2012 National Elections are on schedule and the Commission is confident of completing the Electoral Roll on time and successfully delivering a free, fair and safe election to the people of Papua New Guinea in June," Mr. Trawen continued.

"The 2012 election program as approved by the Governor General Sir Michael Ogio will proceed as scheduled. I will advise the Governor-General to issue the election writs on April 27 for polling to start on June 23. Any decision on election dates must come from the Electoral Commission, otherwise, confidence in elections will be eroded in Papua New Guinea."

Trawen singled out that in 2002, the then-Morauta Government took the electoral Commission to court to delay the 2002 National Election by a few weeks for perceived problems over the Electoral Roll but the Electoral Commission resisted the move and the National Election proceeded on schedule as set by the Constitution.

Mr. Trawen said that the 2007 Electoral Roll, by law, remains the basic roll and if there are problems in the update of any Electoral Roll including the 2012 Roll, the Commission has the power to conduct an election on the 2007 Electoral Roll.

[PIR editor's note: Meanwhile, criticism has been leveled at the National Executive Council of PNG for calling for a deferral of the elections. Former Electoral Commission advisor and legal expert John Nonggorr says the move would be "undemocratic" as members of parliament are not able to defer elections. Nonggorr says it would be illegal to allot themselves more time than their five-year terms in office.]

"Nonetheless, I am confident the 2012 elections will not fail and will maintain that the elections will go ahead as planned in accordance with the Constitution. We (PNGEC) are doing our very best to get the Electoral Roll completed, especially for the seven Highlands provinces and will deliver a credible Roll for PNG to go for the elections. I think it is important for everyone to understand what the Electoral Commission is doing with regard to the Electoral Roll because there is a lot of misinformation out there at present."

"A completely new Electoral Roll was created for the 2007 National Election that is still the current Roll," Mr. Trawen said.

"To give you an indication of progress, there are 6,789 Wards in PNG. My office has received field data of 4,983 (75 percent) of those wards and the great majority of these have been processed. The actual new enrollments will close on April 27, 2012 however, data processing and Electoral Roll cleansing will continue and the final Rolls for polling will be finalized and ready in early June."

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