Polling held up for Highlands provinces

11:15 am on 27 June 2017

In Papua New Guinea's election, polling was held in up three Highlands provinces yesterday amid problems with the electoral roll and logistical delays.

PNG voters must dip a finger into indelible ink before voting, an effort to ensure they don't vote twice.

PNG voters must dip a finger into indelible ink before voting, an effort to ensure they don't vote twice. Photo: RNZI/ Johnny Blades

Hela, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands were scheduled to have one-day polling yesterday, but in the end only part of Eastern had electorates which went to the poll.

PNG's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato indicated candidates in these provinces had objected to various inconsistencies in the roll that was to be used.

In some cases in Eastern, when voters turned up to vote, large numbers of them found their names were not on the common roll.

Also in Eastern, the air transport being used to shift electoral officials around did not get polling officers to certain remote parts on time.

Another reason Hela didn't poll was due to candidates demanding to have their own presiding officers at polling places.

Mr Gamato said he was confident polling in these provinces would begin today.

The Commissioner has now agreed that electorates where the roll is problematic can revert to using the "preliminary roll", an updated version of the roll used in the 2012 election.

PNG Electoral chief allows reversion to preliminary roll

As polling continues in the election, electorates are being allowed to revert to an earlier version of the electoral roll where needed.

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patalias Gamato fronts the media, 26 June 2016

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patalias Gamato fronts the media Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

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

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

Patilias Gamato said there was provision for people to check the roll and submit any objections.

"There are minor issues that we are handling, like the roll issue. I've already made a decision that officials can use the preliminary roll which is near to accurate, or is almost as good, so we can continue to use the preliminary roll and hopefully we can continue the polling."

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

He also said there had been an incident where two people were killed in Morobe Province's Tewai-Siassi district but that it was linked to a land dispute and unrelated to the election.

The killings had delayed polling in the Wasu local level government area of Tewai-Siassi.

Elsewhere in the district, polling was proceeding as scheduled.

Facing some criticism for the schedule of the two-week polling period, he indicated there was some flexibility to extend into extra days for places where polling was held up or incomplete.

Meanwhile, Mr Gamato has explained that the Commission approved of the destruction of some 9-thousand ballot papers in Hela at the weekend.

This was because the papers for this particular local level government area, Awi-Pori, had the wrong electorate printed on them.

Mr Gamato said this LLG area was previously in the Koroba-Kopiago electorate but this was no longer the case,

following a recent change of electoral boundaries by the government.

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