PNG’s capital residents shocked with second deferral of polling day

Central Province voters in the PNG elections
Central Province voters ... unlike Port Moresby and some others parts of PNG, voting has been incident free. Image: Inside PNG News

PNG Post-Courier

Chaos. That is the one word for Papua New Guinea’s 2022 national general election.

Unfortunately, the election has descended to that level, and polling is slowly slipping out of the set timetables as chaotic scenes nationwide, manpower problems, logistics issues and unexpected postponements hit the schedule.

In the capital Port Moresby, voters were further shocked to learn that yesterday’s polling was suddenly pulled from under their feet at the 11th hour.

The big surprise shocked voters and businesses alike as the postponing of polling to Friday — is the second postponement to hit the nation’s capital.

Thousands of voters and candidates in Port Moresby returned home from polling stations around the city, angry, disappointed and even confused that they could not cast their votes while business are counting their losses.

The Post-Courier was told businesses were losing up to K1 million (NZ$455,000) for the one day stoppage and they will lose more on Friday when they close again to allow their employees to go to the polls.

“What’s happening? Money was allocated for this exercise. It looks like we have very incompetent people in leadership roles in the Electoral Commission.

‘Not doing their jobs’
“They aren’t doing their jobs,” said Wilma Kesi, a frustrated mother summing up the feeling among voters.

Polling in NCD (National Capital District) was initially planned to be held on Monday, July 4, together with the rest of the country except for the Highlands provinces but it was postponed to Wednesday, due to “logistic” problems.

Voters, among them hundreds of workers who took the day off from work to vote, woke up as early as 5am and went to the polling sites in anticipation for voting, only to be informed of the postponement after a long wait.

“This is not good. I left work just to come and vote and when they keep deferring, it’s not right because we can’t take too many days off work. My employer may not give me another day off to vote,” Collin Bill said.

The employers Bill is referring to include business houses in Port Moresby who shut down operations throughout the city to allow the workers time off to vote and they stand to lose millions of kina just to close operations for one day.

Major companies we spoke to agreed they stand to lose millions if kina for a day and this will rise when they close up again on Friday.

“We cannot deny our workers their right to vote. We have no choice but to close down operations again if the PNG Electoral Commission wants to conduct polling on Friday,” a senior manager of a leading retail company said.

Disruptive, costly
PNG Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Ian Tarutia said the deferral of polling was disruptive, costly and an inconvenience for workers, employers, business houses and candidates as well.

“This is inexcusable and unacceptable. Voters, candidates cannot be inconvenienced because of the incompetency of the electoral administrative process.

“It is already bad enough as it is that half our voting population will miss out because names are missing from the common roll. If the new date for voting in NCD is Friday, stick with Friday.

“No more changes,” Tarutia said.

Speaking on behalf of the candidates, NCD regional candidate Paun Nonggorr blasted the PNGEC for the continuous deferral of polling, adding that all candidates and the voters must not accept this “amateurish display by the constitutional office holder”.

“I am confused as to what is going on and why this is also casually happening. Can you enlighten me on the reasons why this is happening,” Nonggorr asked in a message to Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai.

Not tolerated
He said the people should not tolerate this and he, as a candidate certainly could not tolerate this.

NCD Election Manager Kila Ralai explained at a press conference later in the day that interference from candidates and incomplete preparation by his office prompted the deferral of polling.

“We are not disorganised; we are trying our best to deliver elections for NCD. In the previous elections, they were chaotic, I just want to manage this election thoroughly, make sure we manage it properly.

“We just need to fix up our processes in order to deliver the elections,” Ralai said.

PNG Post-Courier reporters. Republished with permission.

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