PNG Elections

Alan Bradley abradley1 at bigpond.com
Sun Apr 28 19:32:46 MDT 2002


>From the Post-Courier (http://www.postcourier.com.pg/ ):

(The following is the editorial - AB)

Viewpoint
 Monday 29th April, 2002

Time ripe to call in election observers

OBSERVER teams appear to be the electoral "flavour of the month''. First the
troubled African nation of Zimbabwe and now our Pacific neighbours Vanuatu.
Is there any reason why we should not be sending off urgent requests to
friendly nations to put together a team of independent observers to watch
over our general elections?
After all, Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, has put his stamp of approval
on the idea. He welcomed independent observers and said the Government had
agreed but was yet to work out the process of selecting members of the team.
Electoral Commissioner Reuben Kaiulo earlier said it was the Government's
call to decide on the matter.
Well, we suggest the Government gets cracking on that "process'' of
selecting observers. We are due to head to the polls on June 15. That's less
than seven weeks away.
If we are to get credible observers, people of repute need to be approached
and given time to put their normal life in order before heading our way.
There is genuine concern among the people and their leaders that we need
independent, impartial people looking on as we go into the voting booths and
as the votes are taken back to the counting stations.
Even a member of the Government, that wily veteran of three decades of
politics, Sir Pita Lus, has fears for the conduct of fair elections.
We need to be sure that the people's will is expressed freely and that their
actions in the voting booth are not interfered with.
Our country needs, more than at any previous time in its history, leaders
who are accepted and seen by the people as the ones they trust.
We do not need an election tainted by menacing of candidates and voters
during campaigning, or browbeating of officers during the conduct of voting
and counting. We do not want to end up like Zimbabwe, with a result mocked
by the rest of the world and doubts cast on the legitimacy of the ruling
regime.
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News
 Monday 29th April, 2002

'Don't use army'

A GOVERNMENT minister from the Pangu faction is against the use of the
Defence Force in this year's general elections.
Veteran MP and Culture and Tourism Minister Sir Pita Lus said the army must
not be used in the elections as they were not trained for civil duties like
the elections.
He cited problems with the use of the military in the 1997 elections, where
soldiers were reported to have interfered in the orderly conduct of the
elections.
This resulted in "serious scuffles'' between soldiers, the police and
civilians in the Southern and Western Highlands, the minister said.
"We in Pangu Pati want free elections. Our people must never be intimidated
by the army or anybody for that matter,'' Sir Pita said.
"They must be left alone to exercise their own free will to vote for whoever
they wish and to select whichever political party they wish to form
government.''
He said he supported the use of observers to ensure a fair and free election
and called on "all appropriate international agencies'' to be ready to
perform that role "when called upon by our
government''.
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News
 Monday 29th April, 2002

Somare calls for monitoring MPs

Opposition Leader Sir Michael Somare has called on Papua New Guineans to
closely monitor the actions of "desperate" members of Parliament who were
looking at unconventional ways of holding onto power.
"In the last week, we have seen the partial unveiling of a ploy by our
elected representatives and their supporters to manipulate the elections
process through the use of soldiers,'' Sir Michael said.
He supported the move by Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta not to engage the
Defence Force in the election process.
Sir Michael said in the event of a callout, the Defence Force could help by
manning the police operations while the police were deployed to help with
the elections.
He said former defence minister Kilroy Genia and Defence Force Commander
Brigadier-General Peter Ilau had admitted the force was politicised.
Brig-Gen Peter Ilau said on Friday the force has been stable even before
changes were made to the command of operations and personnel.
Sir Michael said: "In order to take charge of this volatile situation, we
must act now to prevent further manipulation by those who know that their
chances of re-election are slim and need to abuses of power to win their
seats.''
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News
 Monday 29th April, 2002

Poll security assured

POLICE Commissioner Joseph Kupo on Friday gave the strongest assurance of
security for the elections.
Mr Kupo was speaking following a week-long security briefing with his police
commanders and electoral commission officials in Lae.
"As far as we are concerned this will be the biggest security operation
compared with previous (election) security operations," he said.
He said over 10,000 police members - 5300 regulars, 2500 reserve and 5000
auxiliary police officers - supported by special logistical equipment and
Defence Force transport and communications support.
"For our purposes - for elections we are prepared for worst-case scenarios,"
he said.
Mr Kupo said that police reports from the 20 provinces on general law and
order and then specifically on election-related problems indicate
that "life seems to be normal".
Mr Kupo told a news conference after the joint conference that intelligence
reports from both the Defence Force and National Intelligence has led to a
rating of "low to medium" threat risk at present and the situation will
continue to be monitored.
He said police had not ascertained whether reports of guns being accumulated
were specifically for the election-related violence or for the tribal fights
especially in the Highlands.
"We are aware of the presence of firearms in the Highlands provinces and our
local police commanders - as part of their pre-election operations - will be
targetting those places and people who may be in possession of those
weapons," he said.
Mr Kupo said police preparations for providing election security began
24-months ago.
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News
 Monday 29th April, 2002

Defense Force to help police in some areas

The Defence Force will help police in areas where police are unable to
penetrate, says Defence Force Commander Brigadier-General Peter Ilau.
Brig-Gen Ilau said initial help would be in the areas of transport,
logistics and intelligence.
Brig-Gen Ilau said under the Constitution, the force was obliged to help
civil authorities as it was one of their roles and functions.
But he said their help would depend on a request from the police
commissioner.
Brig-Gen Ilau said the Defence Force was mandated to help police or other
civil authorities who asked for their help.
He said the Defence Force would only conduct specific tasks as requested by
the police
commissioner.
Brig-Gen Ilau said after they complete their missions they would hand back
the matter to police.
"Maybe, strongly held areas that police are not able to penetrate or even
taking electoral officers to very remote areas that normal services are not
able to take them in, are some of the areas which members of the force will
be engaged in during the elections," says Brig-Gen Ilau.
He confirmed K3.5 million had been requested from government agencies for
the Defence Force to use during the elections.
Brig-Gen Ilau said the estimates were made by police which he said had cross
checked and were fairly accurate given the current financial
situation.
He said they had not received any money yet.
Brig-Gen Ilau said considering the time factor it was not too late to carry
out intelligence and reconnaissance work around the country for the
elections.
Asked if the Defence Force would still help if the money was not forthcoming
by June 15, which was the start of polling, Brig-Gen Ilau said: ""No money,
no gain."
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News
 Monday 29th April, 2002

Highlands 'quieter'

ELECTION campaigning in the Highlands has so far been much quieter than
previous elections.
What has always been very noisy and a rowdy crowd with rallies held every
day has so far been quite.
Wapenamanda Local Government President Johnson Kolimbao said there were a
couple of reasons the election campaigning had been quite.
Mr Kolimbao said one of the main reasons was that Christians have been
praying for a trouble-free election and it was God in control of the
elections.
The other reason he said was that voters have realised their show of
support had brought them nothing and they realise that it was a waste of
time for them to go out supporting candidates.
"The people have lost interest and everyone is minding their own business,"
he said in Wabag.
He said people went into heavy campaigning without knowing what they were
doing and the policies of a party or an individual.
Mr Kolimbao said most supported the person because of obligations for the
tribe and relatives stood together without assessing the person or the party
's policies.
He said people were now becoming aware of what they were going into and
would be voting for who they want without tribal leaders having any effect
on their decision.
In past elections, he said, the leaders made the decision for the community
or the tribe and everyone followed but it was not the case in this election.
The president said another main reason was that a lot of candidates did not
have the money to play around with and people were not willing to put on
traditional dances in support of a candidate when there was no money coming.
He said in previous elections, people were selling votes and tried to make
as much as they could but in this election, people have already made up
their mind and candidates were not going to waste money.
However, he said, troubles may flare up if and when councillors dispute
which may throw the general elections into chaos.
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Copyright, 2001, Post-Courier Online.


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