PNG Elections Officer’s House Pillaged By Candidate Supporters

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PNG Elections Officer’s House Pillaged By Candidate Supporters Officer thought to be smuggling ballots in favor of Jeffrey Nape

By Zachery Per

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 17, 2012) – An elections returning officer and his family in Papua New Guinea’s Chimbu Province have lost their personal belongings and savings after supporters of candidates ransacked their home.

The damages and loss were estimated to cost about K90,000 [US$43,443].

Police also detained an assistant returning officer for allegedly possessing important election documents last weekend.

Police said that they had arrested two people in connection with the ransacking incident.

Returning officer Tom Sine had his house at the Kundiawa Lutheran Day High School ransacked.

This was after assistant returning officer for the Tabare local level government, Vitus Bula, was picked up at a joint task force roadblock at Wara Simbu at around 3am last Saturday.

Bula was alleged to have in his possession election materials, and detained at the Kundiawa police station.

Angry candidates from the Sinasina-Yongomugl electorate and their supporters alleged that Bula was trying to smuggle 5,000 marked ballot papers in favor of local MP Jeffery Nape to be included in the boxes at the Kundiawa police station.

Sine said more than 200 supporters of the candidates broke into his house and made off with items valued at K90,000. They included seven pigs, chickens and three computers, two of them laptops.

He said when Bula was arrested, the story was twisted to say about 5,000 marked ballot papers for Nape were confiscated. So they attacked his family and raided his home.

"I do not know who ordered them to come and ransack my home. My lifetime savings and properties were taken and I am left with nothing," he said.

"They alleged I escorted the ballot papers and provincial elections manager Steven Gore Kaupa authorized them.

"Bula was bringing the returns for Tabare LLG in his vehicle when he was arrested at the roadblock," Sine said.

Nape denied the claims, saying it was one of the many election-related incidents between police and returning officers.

A petition signed by the protesting candidates included calls to replace Sine, Bula and Kaupa.

Chimbu provincial police commander Augustine Wampe confirmed the incident but denied that 5,000 ballot papers were marked outside and brought in. He said that was speculation to tarnish the good names of Sine, Bula and Kaupa.

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