6 Apr 2012

PNG minister defends election deferral

1:29 pm on 6 April 2012

A Papua New Guinea government minister has defended parliament's decision to defer the national elections for six months.

The government claims issues with the state of the electoral rolls and the poor security in the Highlands would have meant the original schedule of polling beginning in late June was untenable.

The National Planning Minister Sam Basil says the deadline has already elapsed for the scrutinising of authorised copies of the common roll in each district before the issue of writs for the election.

But Mr Basil says the Electoral Commission has not prepared the copies in time.

"So those things weren't followed in the past. When you look at the past elections, there are always disputed returns and there is always election violence and there is always people winning elections and then bribing the other candidates who would have won the election to not take (court) cases against them."

Sam Basil says PNG law allows for a deferral of the election.

However, the opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu insists the action is unconstitutional, saying a deferral is only possible in case of an emergency or if the electoral commission requests more time.

The watchdog organisation, Transparency International PNG, says the people have been ambushed with the election deferral.

Its spokesperson Lawrence Stephens says they are angry but there is a precedent for the people forcing controversial decisions by MPs to be overturned.

He points to attempts years ago when MPs tried to stop leadership tribunal rulings disqualifying them from sitting in Parliament.

The people of Papua New Guinea rose and objected and that was stopped, wisely stopped. This time it has hit the people of Papua New Guinea in an ambush. It has been rushed through, ill-conceived and no consultation with anybody other than a small group of misguided lawyers and a few members of parliament who have managed to push this through without any proper consultation with the general public.