Gary Juffa: Why I was not on the PNG electoral roll and why we must act fast

Oro Governor Gary Juffa ... "many of the people in Papua New Guinea who had voted since Independence were unable to vote for the first time in their life." Image: GJ-Facebook

OPINION: By Gary Juffa, Governor of Oro and a candidate in the PNG general election

Papua New Guinea’s incoming government must put a list of urgent 100 days agendas to attend to immediately upon taking office and put the necessary resources to address them and an effective management system of monitoring, review and redirection.

Right up there on that list  must be a diagnostic review of the 2017 national elections.

Basically this review will highlight what happened, what went wrong, why, who was responsible and what needs to happen to improve and ensure a democratic transparent effective election in 2022 so that the people’s constitutional rights to elect their parliamentary

Here was my experience this week:

On Wednesday, I voted at Iora, Kokoda. But only after some time.

Yes, my name was not on the Electoral Roll 2017. Even though I had made sure my details were updated. Even though I checked the website and it had my name listed and at the location and yet on Wednesday I was not on the 2017 Roll.

I was finally allowed to vote because I was a candidate as per provisions of the law that allowed for this. In other words, if I could not vote because I was not on the 2017 Electoral Roll that would be a blatant and very explicit fact showing that the 2017 rolls were not effectively updated.

Others should vote too
I asked if others can vote too since that was only fair. Since the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, who was also not on the 2017 roll was allowed to vote and I was allowed to vote, why couldn’t every other person who had voted in 2012 and before be allowed to vote.

I was informed by polling officials that they were instructed that only the 2017 Electoral Roll was to be used and not the 2012 electoral roll or the preliminary roll.

I spoke to many frustrated and angry people who declared that they had made sure their names were updated and yet they were not on the 2017 roll and thus unable to vote.

From my discussions it could be concluded that in some instances more then 40 percent of the people were turned away in some areas and in some areas even higher numbers with percentages as high as 70 percent quoted by observers and scrutineers.

Some of the stories they told were simply infuriating and one can only be bitterly aware that this People’s National Congress (PNC) government led by Peter O’Neill does not care for the people of Papua New Guinea.

Many who found their names were not in one area had to travel a fair distance to other stations to search for their names to vote. In the case of the aged and elderly, mothers who had young children to tend to or those with disabilities and those with no financial means, this was too much. How sad.

Many found the polling officials unhelpful and barely aware of their duties and functions. I noted several young high school students who had no prior work experience.

Wide open to electoral fraud
Meanwhile, the process was so wide open for electoral fraud that it would be so easy for those with some intent and planning to be able to commit electoral fraud with much ease and little chance of detection or deterrence.

Many claimed that the process of updating the roll was hindered simply because papers for recording this process “ran out”.

Not a few expressed anger that people who had no experience and qualifications and some of dubious character had been engaged to do this and some had not even bothered to go out to do their work. The work itself was so poorly coordinated that it could not be described in anyway as being “effective”.

One such person was chased and stoned today in Kokoda when sighted as he had been responsible for a significant percentage of voters being turned away.

Several of my aged aunts and uncles were visibly sad and angry as they were unable to exercise their democratic right to vote. One told me that they felt that this may be their last time to be able to vote and yet they could not vote even though they had voted ever since PNG attained independence on 16 September 1975.

In fact, many of the people in Papua New Guinea who had voted since Independence were unable to vote for the first time in their life. Many were frustrated and sad. This was a huge negative psychological experience for them

It is apparent to many that the ruling PNC and O’Neill are arrogant and totally inconsiderate of the people of Papua New Guinea to exercise their democratic right to elect their representatives into Parliament.

If they were not, they would have done everything possible to ensure that this election was not such a failure.

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