Outgoing PNG minister challenges impartiality of officials in demand for fair polls

Candidate Michael Malabag
Candidate Michael Malabag ... questioning the impartiality of civil servants for the polls. Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Claudia Tally in Port Moresby

The impartiality of officials who have been appointed to manage polling in the National Capital District during the Papua New Guinea general election next month has been questioned.

In a first of its kind meeting in Port Moresby yesterday, candidates, police and the election manager convened at the Sir John Guise stadium where issues such as impartiality, vote rigging, common roll and security were the biggest concerns.

The meeting comes on the back of the appointment of all Assistant Returning Officers (AROs) by the PNG Electoral Commission to conduct the national elections.

The list of appointees will be published by the Post-Courier tomorrow for readers’ information and comment.

Former Moresby North-west MP and now NCD regional candidate Michael Malabag, who was Health Minister in the outgoing government, questioned the appointment of five AROs who are engaged with the National Capital District Commission, claiming that this may influence the election process.

In response, NCD Election Manager Kila Ralai said the officials were public servants attached with the NCDC and that there was no intention to compromise the integrity of the election process.

“We have 16 AROs for NCD’s three open electorates and we have two APROs and that makes it 18 and out of those 18 AROs we have only five staff from NCDC as part of AROs to assist in these elections,” he clarified.

A petition is possible
“Because they are public servants in NCDC, likewise, if I was in East Sepik I would also have public servants as AROs.

“So in that process we only considered five out of a couple of applications from NCDC.”

However, Ralai added that if the candidates wished to apply for changes, they could present a petition which he would bring it to the Electoral Commissioner for further deliberation.

He also advised candidates that there would be issues with the common roll which should be ironed out after this election.

Another matter raised by NCD regional candidate Michael Kandiu was the transportation of ballot boxes from the polling stations to the counting venues.

He said there were allegations of foul play in the last two elections.

In this election he demanded transparent operations and better security.

No tinted police vehicles
“I want police to make sure that no ballot box is transported by any tinted police vehicle and it must be transported straight from the polling booth to the counting centre,” he said.

It was resolved that ballot boxes would be transported on open back vehicles straight from polling sites to counting venues.

The former Secretary for Department of Community Development and Religion, Anna Bais, who is contesting the Moresby Northwest Open, asked about the installment of CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras in all counting sites.

“We want CCTVs so we need to know if CCTVs can be put in here.

While government may say there is no money, we are willing to support,” said Bais.

Her call for CCTV linkages was supported by other candidates who offered to help with funds.

Metropolitan Superintendent Gideon Ikumu explained that the manpower in the city included 200 recalled reservists and another 150 recently trained reservists who would join the regular police officers along with members of the PNG Defence Force.

Claudia Tally is a PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

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