Opening Of PNG National Elections Marred By Allegations Of Mismanagement

PNG National Party has now called on the Electoral Commissioner to immediately take action to preserve the integrity of the process

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 26, 2017) – National Election polling started peacefully on Saturday while some parts of the country were marred by allegations of mismanagement of the electoral process through tampering of ballot papers, missing names, deflated and inflated rolls.

In Hela province, a total of 9157 invalid ballot papers were burned on Saturday on orders of Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

The destruction of the papers was in the Awi-Pori LLG which had the Koroba-Kopiago electorate wrongly printed on them.

Mr Gamato said previously the Awi-Pori LLG was in the Koroba-Kopiago electorate but was now no longer the case following changes to the boundaries by the government.

The PNG National Party has now called on the Electoral Commissioner to immediately take action on allegations of gross mismanagement of the electoral process after the first day of polling to preserve the integrity of the election process.

Party leader Kerenga Kua said he was alarmed to hear reports on the first day of polling of unexplained ballot papers discovered in Morobe and Hela Province.

Similar unconfirmed reports came out from Wewak and West Sepik Province of marked ballot papers being seized by police.

Furthermore, reports are starting to surface from candidates in Chimbu and Manus provinces of incomplete Electoral Rolls that were delivered last minute to polling officials.

“The Electoral Commissioner has failed in his duty to adequately brief all political parties and candidates on a weekly basis during the campaign period on preparations for polling and counting. Logistics and security are key concerns for all contesting in the general election and to date no security and logistics plan has been circulated to all interested parties for comment,” Mr Kua said

“We are certain that over the coming days more and more reports will be forthcoming from all over the nation as voters go to the polls and we urge the Electoral Commissioner and his staff to take all allegations seriously, investigate and based on evidence, take action in a timely manner to preserve the integrity of the electoral process.”

In Central province, polling in Gaire village was delayed in some areas while the complaints of tapering with Electoral Roll were reported in Kairuku. The issue of Seventh-Day Adventists voting on Saturday threatened to derail voting and it was resolved by scrutineers and election officials to conduct polling today.

Electoral Commissioner Gamato has also appealed to people especially educated elites to be more responsible and not use social media to create anxiety and confusion to the voting population.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia said the courts were ready and prepared to take on election petitions for the 2017 National Election.

He said the courts were building up on the number of judges and staff on the ground to prepare for this.

PNG Post-Courier
Copyright © 2017 PNG Post-Courier. All Rights Reserved

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When ballot papers are burned, regardless of the explanation, you have a serious problem with your democracy. Once the papers are burned, they cannot be examined by anyone, and no one will ever be able to discover what happened. Delivery of voter rolls at the last minute is another indication that the process is seriously flawed. As an American, I can hardly claim that our own voting process is fair, but in most cases, the mechanics of voting are well-handled. Without such mechanics, no one can begin to claim that voting is fair, or even that it has happened at all. PNG needs to make serious investments in the mechanics of voting if it wants to be considered a democracy. Incidentally, I lived for six years in PNG during 1971 through 1977, during the transition to Independence, and whatever the faults of the Australians, the mechanics of the voting process during that time were clear and unambiguous. Not that I voted myself, of course. As a foreigner and a non-citizen, I was not permitted to vote, nor should I have been.

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