‘Failed Elections’ In PNG’s Western Highlands Challenged

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‘Failed Elections’ In PNG’s Western Highlands Challenged Local official never advised commissioner to declare failure

By James Apa Gumuno and Elias Lari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, August 19, 2013) – Western Highlands election manager Philip Telape says he did not advise Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen to declare failed local level government (LLG) elections in the province.

Telape said this after Trawen declared failed elections in Hagen Urban, Hagen Rural, Mul, Kotna and Muglamp.

Trawen last week declared failed elections in 19 LLGs in Enga, Jiwaka, Southern Highlands and Eastern Highlands because of violence and illegal practices during polling.

Telape, during a media conference in Hagen last Friday with his provincial election steering committee, said the election in the province was conducted peacefully except for few rural areas where there were some minor disturbances.

But boxes were safely returned for counting. He said counting progressed smoothly in all districts and majority of the ward councilors were declared. Baiyer LLG was the first to declare its president Paraka Nii.

He said Nebilyer, Mt. Giluwe and Hagen Urban were going through the elimination process.

Telape said Trawen must have based his decision on outside sources.

Telape said he would send his report after all declarations were done and after the return of writs. But he said he respected Trawen’s decision because he had the power to do that.

Meanwhile, candidates vying for the president’s seat in Mt. Hagen have condemned Trawen’s decision.

There are 11 candidates contesting the Mt. Hagen rural president’s seat. The candidates are Jacob Kop, Luke Mathew, Opa Brass Wak, Collin Poiya, John Orake, William Maki, John Kama and David Terry.

They want Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to sideline Trawen and have someone else run the election until the return of writs.

Kop urged Trawen to explain his decision because Hagen Rural had only 11 boxes left for counting before going into the elimination process.

Orake said if Trawen did not consult and get advice from his officers on the ground, then he should be sidelined.

Wak said counting should continue because Trawen’s decision was baseless.

In Jiwaka, South-Wahgi president candidate Jim Kuk said there were costs involved and called on Trawen to reverse his decision.

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