PNG Police Investigate Burning Of Provincial Ballots

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Jiwaka poll security ‘overpowered’ by gunmen

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Sept. 26, 2012) – Papua New Guinea police have launched an investigation into an armed attack in Jiwaka province, where 100,000 votes from the recent general election were burnt.

Around two dozen men - some carrying high powered rifles - overpowered security staff who were guarding the counted votes.

Micheal Paa, the general manager of Asila Security, which was responsible for guarding the ballot boxes in Jiwaka, described to Radio Australia's Pacific Beat, what happened.

"They held them up and told them [security staff] to lie on the ground, face down," he said.

Mr. Paa said the armed men then threw kerosene over the containers where the ballot boxes were being stored.

The Jiwaka seat is one of 80 parliamentary seats that are being contested, following the general election held in June and July of this year.

An unprecedented two-thirds of the parliamentary seats are being challenged, raising questions about how free and fair the election was.

Dr. Joseph Ketan, a visiting Fellow of the Institute for PNG Studies, was an observer in Jiwaka province for this year's election.

"The election was generally in a peaceful and orderly manner," he said.

"But the poll was neither free nor fair. There was a lot of intimidation, there was a lot of corrective, coerced voting, the secret ballot principle was compromised.

"This in turn disenfranchised a lot of women, there was a lot of under-age voting, the common roll was discarded about 10, 20 minutes into the polling."

And Dr. Ketan says the results from the burnt ballots will never be known.

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