Gamato defends PNG elections in face of mounting condemnation

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Masked gunmen ‘hijacked’ three ballot boxes in Western Highlands electorate of Mul-Baiyer. Video: EMTV News

By Elizah Palme in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has defended the just-concluded two-week general election in the face of mounting condemnation.

Some polling is continuing in some delayed places while counting is underway in most electorates.

International election observers have reported “widespread” problems with the electoral roll that prevented thousands of people from voting.

The Commonwealth Observer Group called for an urgent review after the election to improve the accuracy of the roll.

In the interim report, chairman Sir Anand Satyanand, a former New Zealand governor-general, said: “The group was very disappointed to note that previous Commonwealth Observation Group reports that highlighted the need to address this issue of the common roll have yet to be implemented.”

-Partners-

In a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday, Gamato was asked a series of questions by the media, saying: “The issue for the funds for the allowances should not be the case now as the Electoral Commission has enough money to pay for the officers.”

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato fields questions at the media conference in Port Moresby. Image: EMTV News

Gamato was responding to questions about the K184,000 (NZ$80,000) allowance money confiscated from former NCD Election Manager Terence Hetinu, which the commissioner confirmed was with the police and undergoing investigation.

In response to the recent resignation of the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC), the commissioner said the EC was in the process of “helping them out” in terms of logistics and finance, including the information they require.

‘Unfortunately they resigned’
“As we were processing that, it’s a pity unfortunately they resigned”.

He further said the EAC’s resignation is “premature”, stating that their role is to advise or recommend to the EC their grounds for failing of election.

“To this stage, I have not seen strong grounds across the country. Polling has progressed very well apart from issues like the issue of common roll which I’ve already addressed”

He said many people have voted “despite hiccups” with the electoral roll, but promised to address this after the election.

While stating that EAC did not have strong grounds to recommend a failed election, the EC told media the decision to fail the election was his.

“The decision to fail an election is mine”.

EMTV News coverage stories are republished with permission.

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