O’Neill Denies Reports That PNG Election Will Be Deferred

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O’Neill Denies Reports That PNG Election Will Be Deferred PM condemns media ‘misinformation,’ backs Electoral Commissioner

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 24, 2012) – Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has again reassured the nation that the national election will be held on dates set by the electoral commissioner.

He clarified that parliament, which recently approved to defer the election by six months, had no legal powers to do so.

"Pursuant to law, parliament cannot extend the term of members of parliament beyond the fifth anniversary of the return of writs for the previous general election. That is illegal," he said in a statement.

He was responding to a media report that he told parliament last week the election would be deferred by six months.

He said by law, cabinet and parliament could "only request extension of time if there is evidence that election preparedness by the electoral commissioner and the Electoral Commission was doubtful and election security was found wanting."

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen said yesterday he would issue a statement today on the issue.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a report from the Post-Courier, the following dates have been confirmed for electoral procedures by Trawen, as announced by O’Neill: the issue of writs will occur on May 18; close of nominations will occur on May 24; polling will begin on June 23; and return of writs will occur on July 27.]

O’Neill urged the media to be "responsible, ethical and factual in their coverage of election information."

"Nothing can be gained by the media being mischievously manipulative, disseminating misinformation to the public and taking sides with any and every election opportunist who wants a media grab."

He said the media and political opportunists must stop "prolonged and misinformed debate on election deferral as there is no such deferral."

O’Neill said he could understand why some members of parliament were concerned about the accuracy of election common rolls.

"I can understand where members of parliament were coming from to move for a deferral of the election by six months," he said.

"Let me state clearly and precisely that members of parliament and the executive government want to ensure all eligible voters’ names are on the common roll for them to exercise their voting rights in free and fair democratic elections.

"Our government is not trying to change election schedules. Cabinet has no right to set election dates.

"The Electoral Commission has the responsibility to deliver free and fair election successfully by setting the election schedule, making sure there is security for the election and that the election common rolls are up to date.

"Our government is committed to supporting the Electoral Commission to deliver a free and fair democratic election outcome."

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