Pressure grows on commissioner as PNG election continues

10:24 am on 29 June 2017

As polling continues in Papua New Guinea's general election, the Electoral Commissioner is under more pressure to resign.

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato is under pressure to resign

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato is under pressure to resign Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

This followed a string of controversies early in the two-week polling schedule.

Wild inconsistencies and flaws in the electoral roll, scheduling changes and delayed polling were already a bad way to start.

The pressure then piled on the Commissioner, Patalias Gamato, after the sudden decision to defer polling in the capital from Tuesday to Friday.

But then three electoral officials were detained for police questioning after they were found carrying marked ballot papers, suspicious documents and in one case US$57,000 in cash.

A group of candidates from the capital have formed a petition urging Mr Gamato to stand down to restore integrity to the election.

Now other leaders around the country, including New Ireland Governor, and former prime minister, Sir Julius Chan are also calling for the Commissioner's resignation.

Mr Gamato said he would not resign, but would oversee the conduct of the election to its conclusion.

But he was struggling to contain perceptions that this election is a failed one, even before polling is halfway through.

Meanwhile, polling has got underway in Bougainville after a delay of two days, and PNG's second biggest city of Lae is to go to the polls today.

Election boxes in PNG

Election boxes in PNG Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Election officers sacked after being apprehended

Two of the senior Papua New Guinea election officials apprehended by police on Tuesday in Port Moresby have been sacked.

Patilias Gamato removed the two officials after a public outcry.

The NCD Elections manager Terence Hetinu, who police say was found with US$57,000 in cash and mark ballot papers, has been removed.

Also removed was his assistant Rosalyn Tobagani.

The officials were, however, released from police custody without charge.

But police said they were further investigating the matter of the cash, ballot papers and suspicious papers found on the electoral officials.

Mr Gamato, has appointed Alwin Jimmy as new NCD Election Manager whilst Kavanamur Bale replaced Roslyn Tobogani as NCD assistance Election Manager.

PNG MP appeals for calm

A Papua New Guinea MP has appealed to the public and other candidates not to take the law into their own hands.

The comment from Justin Tkatchencko comes amid frustation over the delay to polling in the National Capital District.

People had already started turning up to vote on Tuesday morning when the Electoral Commission announced that NCD's one-day polling would be deferred to Friday.

Justin Tkatchencko and Powes Parkop

Justin Tkatchencko, (left), and the NCD Governor Powes Parkop. Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

To add to the confusion, a couple of hours later, three Electoral officials had been detained for questioning at Boroko police station after police found them carrying marked ballot boxes and US$57,000 in cash.

While critical of the move to defer polling, Mr Tkatchencko has appealed for calm.

"What I'm worried about is the way other candidates are handling this, and the actions that they want to take, Illegal actions, which is just not on," Mr Tkatchencko said.

"So just allow the process to take its course, as the Electoral Commission is running it.

"But we still need to be alert and vigilant, to ensure none of these illegal practices come about and destroy this election," he said.