Governor warns of Moresby mayhem due to election flaws

6:52 am on 27 June 2017

As Papua New Guinea's National Capital District goes to the polls today, its governor has warned of attempts to subvert the election.

Ahead of NCD's one-day polling schedule, Powes Parkop says he has been troubled by persistent problems with the electoral roll and polling places.

He's also worried about reports of misuse of ballot papers in some electorates in provinces such as Hela, East Sepik and Central ahead of polling.

Justin Tkatchencko and Powes Parkop

Justin Tkatchencko and Powes Parkop Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

Together with the incumbent MP for Moresby South, Justin Tkatchenko, Mr Parkop told media that reports were circulating about the illegal printing of ballot papers in the NCD.

He said the information had been passed to the police.

"The problem will be those who have invested in illegal activities," Mr Parkop said.

"They will try to bring their illegal papers into the system somehow, by hijacking and replacing it, or investing in bribing officials of the Electoral Commission."

Mr Tkatchenko said his concerns were based on eye witness accounts, documented confiscations and other "reports".

It was important to counteract such activities before they corrupt the election, he argued.

"That's why we have to be vigilant," he said.

"We have to double-check everything, we have to make sure everything is done properly and correctly by the electoral laws to make sure this doesn't happen here in the capital city.

"If we're already seeing it up in the Highlands and in Wewak, we don't want it to happen here. We wanted this to be a free election without any illegal interference."

Yet it was on the areas of the electoral roll and polling where the Governor was most critical of the Electoral Commission.

Mr Parkop had hoped a biometric voting system would have been in place by now, and was disappointed that PNG's electoral roll was still unruly and out of date.

He said this allowed some voters to be enrolled in two separate provinces, while also excluding many eligible voters.

"I think the law is very clear: the common roll should be ready before the (election) writs are issued," he explained.

"Candidates and parties (should) have a chance to verify the common roll and they can ask for correction. We did not get the opportunity."

Port Moresby

Port Moresby Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

Speaking later at a press conference, the Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said there was provision for people to check the roll and submit any objections.

"For the first time, we have displayed the roll... it never happened in the past elections," he said.

Since polling began on Saturday in other parts of the country, there have been some objections to wild discrepancies in the roll, for instance in Chimbu province.

As a result, the comissioner has allowed for the election to revert back to the preliminary roll, last updated around the start of the year.

"And I think two or three provinces raised that, and some electorates, so having seen their rolls I gave approval for them to use the preliminary roll," he said.

Otherwise, Mr Gamato said things were largely running smoothly in the polling despite some roll issues and some setbacks related to non-payment of allowances to security forces.

However, as far as the NCD was concerned, Mr Parkop was far from happy about the preparation for the polls.

He criticised the distribution of polling places in the NCD, saying they were often not accessible for local voters, and made the system vulnerable to double voting.

"Electoral Commission needs to shape up and deal with these kinds of basic things that cause problems, cause nuisance," he said.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist in Papua New Guinea to know it. You just know that... don't centralise the polling booth. You're going to create mayhem in Port Moresby."

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

While acknowledging flaws in the roll and polling processes, the two sitting MPs urged as many people to vote as possible.

The Governor said today should have been a holiday for all people in the NCD so that they could exercise their right to vote.

Public servants have been given notice that they should make time to go and vote.

However it is up to individual businesses whether they will allow private sector employees to take time off work to vote.