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Papua New Guinea

Observers appointed as PNG poll violence continues

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape has called for peace during the general elections and asked the public to lay down their weapons when they attend rallies.

The nation is infamous for violence, even the smallest of argument can result in deaths between two different factions separated by tribal origin or place of residence.

More than a week ago, seven people were killed and homes torched in East Sepik. All this started from an argument during a volleyball match.

Mr Marape’s message to the public is that everyone has the right to campaign and people must be allowed to vote without fear or intimidation.

“All have the right to campaign and all are welcome,” he said.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape has called for peace during the general elections and asked the public to lay down their weapons when they attend rallies. Picture: James Marape Twitter

“Candidates must be free to campaign to talk about policies and the people must be free to vote safely.”

Mr Marape made his appeal at his election rally in front of thousands of people. He said many times people with differing political views have picked up weapons, and this is not the way to do things.

In 2017, violence during elections had led to the death of more than 200 people, and several others were injured.

Waqa to lead PNG election observers

Former president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, will lead the Commonwealth Observer Groups (COG) to Papua New Guinea’s national election. Polling will take place between July 2 and 22.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, constituted the ten-member group of observers, which will be led by Mr Waqa.

This was done on the request of the PNG Electoral Commission.

Baron Waqa (L) with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018. Picture: PMO India Twitter

The Observer Groups will arrive in Port Moresby on June 28 and stay until the completion of the electoral process.

“I applaud Papua New Guinea’s resolve and commitment in holding this election, despite the many challenges that come with undertaking an activity of such immense value,” said Ms Scotland.

“As always, the deployment of this observer group demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting electoral democracy in member countries and a recognition of the right of individuals to participate in democratic processes through the credible, inclusive, and transparent elections that shape their societies.

PNG Defence Forces getting ready for election duties. Papua New Guinea’s PM James Marape has called for peace during the general elections and asked the public to lay down their weapons. Pictures: Gen Angus Campbell ADF

“Under the leadership of former President Waqa, I firmly believe that the observer group will provide an independent assessment of the electoral process and work together with the people and Government of Papua New Guinea to strengthen their democratic process.”

The COG will observe and consider all aspects of the election process – from the opening of polling stations and the voting process, to the counting of ballots and announcement of results – and determine whether the elections are conducted in line with the democratic standards to which Papua New Guinea has committed itself.

After election day, COG will issue an interim statement of its preliminary observations and hold a press conference in Port Moresby.

A final report, which will include recommendations to help improve future electoral processes, will be presented to the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Electoral Commission, and will also be shared with other stakeholders.

The Commonwealth Observer Groups members are:

Baron Divavesi Waqa – Chairperson, Former President of Nauru

Dr Nicole George – University Lecturer and Researcher at The University of Queensland, Australia

Makereta Komaidrue – Editor, Pacific Islands News Association, Fiji

Dame Winifred Laban – Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Makereta Vaaelua – Deputy Returning Officer, Electoral Commission of Samoa, Samoa

Hendrick Gappy – Former Chairman, Seychelles Electoral Commission, Seychelles

Peter Kenilorea Jnr – Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Solomon Islands

Johnson Honimae – Chief Executive Officer, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, Solomon Islands

Emeline Siale Ilolahia – Executive Director, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Tonga

Wilson Toa – Country Manager, Vanuatu Balance of Power, Vanuatu

15 dead after drunk political rally – 15 June, 2022

Fifteen people are dead in Papua New Guinea in an accident described as an election campaign gone wrong.

Several others have been admitted in a serious condition to the Mt Hagen Hospital.

According to PNG Police, the people were from Tambul-Nebilyer District returning from an election rally. Rallies in PNG involve the distribution of alcohol to people participating, and drunk rallies have led to injuries and even death in the past.

A general election has been declared in PNG with polling to start on July 2. PNG police are expecting an increase in similar accidents.

Western Highland Provincial Police Commander Superintendent John Sagom said the overloaded truck overturned at Tomba, outside Mt Hagen town in the Western Highland Province on Sunday night.

Locals and Papua New Guinea Defence Force officers assisted those injured in the accident. Picture: Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

“At approximately 9 pm, an FSR truck loaded with people returned from a campaign rally hosted by an intending candidate from Tambul-Nebilyer,” said Mr Sagom.

“From the initial report, the driver was allegedly under the influence of alcohol and speeding resulting in the vehicle overturning at a road corner causing 15 deaths and injuring several others.

“The mass casualties were evacuated to the Mt Hagen General Hospital by the locals and PNG Defence Force officers engaged in election security operations in the highlands region.

“Due to the mass casualties, the PNG Defence Force officers assisted the medical staff in treating the casualties and moving the dead into the morgue this morning.”

A child being assisted to the hospital in Papua New Guinea in an accident described as an election campaign gone wrong. Picture: Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Mr Sagom issued a stern warning to candidates and supporters, saying safety should be paramount when transporting people. He said police will be out in full force to deal with reckless behaviour during this election period.

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In the elections in 2017, more than 200 people lost their lives due to violence, and a handful of accidents.

It has been pointed out that the PNG Police and the Defence Force were not adequate in numbers to deal with violent conflicts or mass casualties arising from accidents.

Australia has sent its Defence Force who will be helping in polling but will not be present on the ground to deal with conflicts.

There is also a high prevalence of firearms during elections, and PNG’s security forces are not properly equipped to deal with situations involving firearms either.

An election observation report compiled by the Australian National University Department of Pacific Affairs found firearms were more prevalent in 2017 than in the previous two national elections.

 

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