Chaos In PNG Capital: Election Officials Arrested; Voters Turned Away; Poll Postponed

People waited in line for hours before being told election in Port Moresby was pushed back

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 28, 2017) – The one-day polling for the National Capital District was in total chaos yesterday, when Electoral Commission officials refused to work until they were paid their allowance.

Thousands of voters who turned up early at various polling booths waited for about three hours until told that polling has been deferred to Friday, June 30.

Amid this chaos came news that four Electoral Commission officers had been arrested with two candidates and questioned at Boroko police station after police found suspicious documents, ballot boxes and K184,300 [US$57,000] cash in their possession.

The four have since been released without charges after it was proven that the money was for camping allowance for polling officials and the ballot boxes were from polling booths that had opened at 8am before polling was abruptly halted and deferred.

[PIR editor's note: On June 28, 2017 RNZI reported that 'RNZ Pacific's correspondent, Rose Amos, who was at the news conference, said Mr Kalaut also confirmed another bout of arrests earlier on Tuesday, after officials were found smuggling ballot papers out of the provincial elections office. ... One of those officials was the assistant returning officer for the National Capital District, Roselyn Tobogani. ... Ms Amos said 16 election officials were in police custody on Tuesday afternoon.']

Candidates vying for the regional and open seats have expressed frustration and disappointment, demanding an explanation.

Sitting MPs Michael Malabag, Justin Tkatchenko and Governor Powes Parkop has slammed the delay.

Other leaders elsewhere called for Electoral Commission to be held responsible for the Port Moresby fiasco and Electoral Roll discrepancies.

The delay in polling has also been costly with police losing more than K350,000 [US$108,000] on car hire for one day to provide security.

Metropolitan commander Chief Superintendent Ben Turi said it was a waste of resource for the police who were looking forward to provide security for a safe, fair and free election.

Business houses that gave a day off to their workforce to express their constitutional rights to vote also expressed disappointment.

Bank South Pacific’s chief executive officer Robin Fleming was diplomatic, saying that the important thing is that issues affecting polling should be rectified and staff will be given time off to vote later in the week.

David Conn of PNG Business Council said businesses gave staff time off work and/or closed for the day. One business claimed that closing for the day cost it more than K200,000 [US$62,000] in sales.

PNG Post-Courier
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