UPNG students make ballot voice heard in spite of challenge over IDs

Papua New Guinea election counting continues with disputed University of PNG ballot boxes included. Image: EMTV News

By Elizah Palme in Port Moresby

University of Papua New Guinea students have spoken through the ballot in spite of being provided 2000 ballot papers less than needed due to discrepancies in the electoral roll.

One of their representatives, Gerald Peni, was a scrutineer to make sure their ballot boxes were counted during weekend counting.

EMTV News Your Vote Special

Scrutineers of some candidates have raised concerns regarding these ballot boxes, claiming a breach of electoral process during the polling.

Some said many students used their ID cards to vote which is unconstitutional hence the votes should be declared informal.

However, Peni, stood up and explained why the boxes should be counted.

He said ballot papers issued were less than the total population in UPNG and there were also discrepancies in the electoral roll which denied many students their right to vote.

“The students felt that they were deprived of their right and they asked the presiding officer to get the Electoral Commission to provide extra ballot papers for especially registered 2000 plus residential students.”

He said the EC should have got the registered students list from the university to update its electoral roll for UPNG which had been the case in previous elections.

“Those who have voted, actually had their names on the common rolls, but had to show their student ID cards to prove their identity,” Peni said.

This was because names of former students who had already graduated and left the university were still on the electoral roll.

Peni later told EMTV Online, only 1348 of the 5000 plus eligible voters of UPNG had voted.

“The rest of us have not voted. We were deprived of our constitutional rights that we exercise every five years.”

Pacific Media Watch reports that many students at UPNG were at the centre of campus protests last year calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to stand down pending police investigations into corruption allegations. The protests came to an end on June 8 when police opened fire at a student demonstration, wounding about 23 people.

A scrutineer for Moresby North West also told EMTV Online that voting using ID cards or any form of ID was unconstitutional. In some cases in Hohola, two longtime residents whose names were not on the electoral roll used their NID [national identity] cards to vote.

“This election has seen people voting using their ID cards and that is against the law,” the scrutineer said.

UPNG Drill Hall boxes were counted in the counts 77, 78 and 79 on Saturday.

Elizah Palme studied chemistry at the University of Papua New Guinea and lists among his achievements being president of UPNG Jiwaka Students Fellowship in 2015 and is current vice-president of Jiwaka Students and Graduates Association Inc. EMTV News Your Vote electoral coverage is republished with permission.

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