Social Concerns Notes – July 2012

Has it been a free and fair election in Papua New Guinea?  Maybe it depends on the criteria used to respond to that question.  The writer has video footage of an elderly woman going to vote and a supporter calling out “She’s mine, I paid her already.”  Was the old lady forced to accept money for her vote?  Yet, presumably having accepted the money it appears that she had also mortgaged her freedom.  How fair is it when people must weigh up the cost of not voting for a candidate when that might put their public service jobs in jeopardy?  If measured on the scale of one person, one secret vote,  the election as I witnessed it in the Highlands was neither free nor fair.  On the other hand, there has been a communal expression of opinion that has resulted in a relatively peaceful change of political leadership in many electorates. So, though it seems hardly to apply to the situation I have witnessed over the past month, the question of a free and fair election must continue to be raised so as to further the dialogue between present realities and the democratic ideal.

See Key findings of the Commonwealth observers’ interim statement on PNG’s National Elections on the last pages of these notes.

Game of money and PNG Politics

Henry Lubang in  PNG Blogs June 25, 2012

MONEY has always been a part of politics – but it should not be a determining factor in the outcome of elections. Many citizens, including non-incumbent intending candidates, often argue that last-minute funding is nothing but some sort of pork-barreling used by MPs to entice voters.

In the fear of being voted out due to reasons such as years of inactivity in office, incumbents sometimes resort to pork-barreling.

The challenge now appears to be one where there is a need to identify which is pre-election funding and which is campaign funding. Apart from this, it would also help to place a time limit (eg six months before writs are issued) on the delivery of programmes and projects funding, especially during the election year. Perhaps, this will help everyone by clearing the air from allegations using pre-election funding for campaign purposes.

Audit needed after elections

Editorial – The National, 12th July 2012

THE Commonwealth Observer Group’s findings this time are, of course, the same as the findings of the 2007 commonwealth observer group. This time, as last time, the team has pointed out:

The need to improve management of elections;
That common roll be drastically improved;
The huge discrimination against women voters;
Bribery which is rampant;
Delays in polling and counting;
Lack of concern and urgency by election officials; and
The list goes on. This is nothing new.

The question we must ask again is whatever happened between 2007 and 2012?
Why were all the problems observed above in 2007 not fixed in time for 2012?
After 2007, the Australian taxpayer, through its government, poured in millions of kina under the electoral support programme to see improved elections management, elections operations, with particular emphasis on the updating of the common roll.
There was no doubt that a huge effort was being made to improve elections.
Alas, it has come to nothing.
The problems that marred the 2007 elections, which the programme was meant to minimise or eradicate altogether, have remained and have been compounded in the 2012 national election.
By many accounts, they have got worse. How worse, we shall have an answer when the elections are concluded.
We would ask that following the elections, an inquiry or even an audit of the elections be undertaken by a reputable and independent team of people.

Papua New Guinea is sick and tired of corrupt Leaders.

From PNGblogs.com  24th July.

PNG this elections do not want a repeat of what we have seen in the last 12 months- where waigani was looted of over K500 million by the government, our Judiciary and government institutions were fragmented and left in tatters, and our Constitution torn to shreds.

We want stable intelligent respectful dignified honest and honourable leaders, fit to hold our hopes and our asperations as a nation in their hands, and carry us through what promises to be a prosperous and yet very turbulent period of our history. We want maturity. We want leaders who look like and who carry themselves and who personify the nation of Papua New Guinea.

We dont want leaders who will for the sake of their business interests sell this nation out to other nations. Papua New Gunea is not a comodity or a play thing for politicians to further their own private business and economic interests.

We have gone to the elections to forget, and get away from the nightmare of the last twelve months, not to legitimize it. Let every MP vote wisely and vote freely for the best interests of this nation.

Politics and Religion don’t mix

The National, 17th July, 2012

We have been receiving increasing number of correspondences from people throughout the country who hold a dim view towards men of the cloth entering elections to become politicians.
Indeed, priests, pastors and other ordained members of Christian churches have always been popular candidates in many elections.
It is easy to see why.
They are seen to represent all the good attributes the people want to see in a leader – God-fearing, honest and fair with a heart for the people. Whether or not the men of God exhibit any of these attributes once they gain membership to parliament is another story.
People have had enough of them in parliament to be able to form their own judgment.
By and large, with the exception of a leaders such as John Momis, formerly a Catholic priest who has won every Bougainville election since pre-independence days prior to the crisis, the people have rejected church leaders after a single term.
Jesus’ message remains. Religious teaching does not praise wealth or politics but, today, religious practice would appear to be the shortcut to both.
Take, for example, the slender almost-starved bible-wielding preacher at the market place. He only remains starved for the time it takes to gather enough followers.
Once he has the necessary following, he forms a splinter church group under some nice sounding name, acquires land in the name of God, builds a church which provides accommodation and transfers land titles to himself and then he grows fat on tithes with an attempt at politics a distinct possibility. Yes, churchmen and women are citizens with equal rights including the right to stand for public office but they must be genuine. If they are serious, they must stand down as church leaders, resign their church positions and enter politics.
Politics and religion, ever since the great teacher himself ruled those dimensions apart, can never be united.

The Force shows appreciation

Post Courier  27/7/2012….

Rabiamul Primary School in the heart of Mt Hagen City got a boost this week from their neighbouring friends who are members of PNG Defence Force.
Members of Quick Reaction Force and composite company who reside at Mt Hagen Rabiamul Camp presented two sets of gifts as a token of appreciation to Rebiamul Primary School for being good to them since the beginning of their operation.
There were two sets of gifts presented to the school by the two units. Gardening tools were purchased and presented by members of the Composite Company while Quick Reaction Force Unit had bought and presented sporting gifts to the school.
The officer in command Captain Raymond Pakii led his troops into the school to present the gifts at the school grounds on Wednesday.
Captain Pakii said from the first week of their arrival at Rabiamul Camp, the school had been so kind to them by donating huge amounts of garden foods and fruits which they shared among the entire operational forces.
In return the two units had bought them these gifts to be used in school activities.
Captain Pakii told the students that in the next election the power of voting will be in their hands and they must vote in good leaders that will develop their schools, roads and hospitals.
Rebiamul Primary School Head Teacher William Yoka in return thanked the PNGDF personnel for being kind enough to return their favour.
“When new people come into our land to provide services to our people, we need to feed them so that they got enough strength to perform their duties and that’s what Rabiamul Primary did,” he said.

Hospital in Hagen adopts local solution

The National, 29th June, 2012

MT HAGEN provincial hospital in Western Highlands province has begun using the new hand-washing solution.
This solution, known as the alcohol hand-rub solution, would reduce infection at the hospital and health facilities in the rural areas.

The mixture of liquids, compromising ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol, is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
The solution would be used by medical officers, nurses and community health workers.
Quality assurance officer Sister Lynette Babah said where there was no water and soap for health staff to wash their hands after attending to patients, they could use this solution to clean their hands.
Dr Guapo Kiagi said the new product was not a substitute for water and soap for hand washing and urged all staff not to use it if they had access to water and soap.

Airstrips shut down. Goods, services not reaching remote villages

Post Courier 29 June

Millions of people in remote villages where there are no road links are silently suffering from basic services as a result of hundreds of remote airstrips in the country being forced to close due to lack of maintenance. 
MAF International development director Bill Harding brought the issue to light in yesterday’s meeting with stakeholders.
 MAF services 250 airstrips in the country carrying medical supplies, goods and other essential items.
It was revealed that MAF carries 40,000 passengers annually which includes church and health workers, teachers and students, medavacs, and freights.
Freight flown weighs up to 3,000,000kg annually. Despite all the hard work and dedication MAF loses K2,000,000 every year and yet they continue to fly with minimal Government support.
During the meeting, Mr Harding highlighted a case study conducted by MAF on the deteriorating state of airstrips in the country. One such case was the case of Wangeto airstrip where a MAF aircraft that flew two government workers with their families faced a hurdle during landing when the aircraft plunged into mud on a soft spot of the runway.

PIH works on 80-bed hospital

The National, 29th June, 2012

AN international standard of medical care not available in the country will soon be provided by the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby. The new hospital will have a cardiac centre, chemotherapy infusion centre, advanced radio-imaging and minimum invasive surgery options.
Hospital consultant ophthalmologist, Dr Amyna Sultan said “phacoemulsification” cataract surgery was introduced in November, 2010. It was the first keyhole surgery for cataract in Papua New Guinea. “With its success, we realised that it is important to bring to PNG such keyhole surgeries that are a very safe way of treating patients worldwide,” she said.
She said in minimum invasive surgeries, there were no big incisions and scars, wounds healed quicker and a patient’s recovery time was substantially reduced.

The hospital has carried out around 3,000 free eye checks and 1,200 free dental checks as well as free mammography, which is a breast X-ray for screening and early detection of breast cancer.

Judge: Improve detention centres

The National, 05th July, 2012

A JUDGE has ordered government authorities in Madang to assist the police and correctional services in improving conditions in detention centres. Resident judge Justice David Cannings has given a list of things to be fixed in the jail and police cells by the end of the month, to comply with constitutional requirements on the respect of basic human rights.
There is the right to be free from inhuman treatment under certain sections of the constitution.
He ordered that at the Beon jail:
– Water supply be restored, and the sewer system repaired;
– Ablution blocks be cleaned out thoroughly;
– Ablution facilities to be operational;
– Four new 2,000-gallon water tanks be installed;
– Bed and blankets to be supplied to all prisoners including treated mosquito nets;
– All cell blocks to be fly screened; and
– Water supply and septic system in the female compound to be given special attention.
In Jomba, Cannings ordered that sewerage and waste be pumped out and the cells be cleaned up.

The jail commander, Jomba police station commander, provincial health advisor and Water PNG branch manager are summoned to the court on Aug 10 to give a report of what they have done.

Night clubs under close ‘scrutiny’

Post Courier 18/7/2012

A striking revelation has been made by members of the taskforce “Rausim Alien”.
The group are tasked to investigate the conduct of foreigners in Papua New Guinea over working conditions of PNG females in foreign owned nightclubs.
“It has been discovered that female hostess employed at the night clubs are required to consume only certain alcohol beverages (Moscow/Scotch whisky) which cost around K12 per bottle and out of that K12 every K3 goes back to make up wages for the hostesses.
Indirectly this means that the more beer a hostess drinks, the more money she makes for her wages. Thus this employment condition forces the ladies to drink as much as four to six cartons of alcohol in a week. And in order to make more money, more the hostess are required to entice the customers to buy more of that alcohol so that the club can make more money at the expense of these ladies.

Consider the nation’s health

Editorial. The National, July 19th, 2012

PAPUA New Guinea has myriad challenges in just about every sector of its society.

Health has been one area that has suffered due to a lack of funding and a proper national strategy to deal with the challenges of a population that is largely rural based but moving to urbanised settings in increasing numbers. The main problems with health care in PNG are that the service does not cater for the population, particularly in rural areas, mostly because the state has not increased its funding to match the needs of today, and there is a shortage of qualified medical personnel.

In terms of facilities, our major hospitals have lacked key diagnostic and other machinery used to treat the sick. In the urban areas of the country, the problem is more of cost and lifestyle while the rural majority must contend with a lack of basic medicines, staff and facilities. This trend must be changed or we will continue to have unnecessary deaths especially to the economically and socially productive members of our communities.

According the United Nations Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific in 2011, PNG has the fourth lowest life expectancy with the males averaging 59 years and females at 64 years. Only Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Afghanistan rated worse than us.

Our Pacific Island neighbours fared much better with 66 years (male) and 72 years (female) for Fiji. Samoa and Tonga’s figures were even better with men averaging 69 years and women at 75.

The state and provincial governments must make health a primary, and mandatory, concern in their budgets.

Cultural Identity and diversity 

The National, July 20th, 2012

TOO engrossed in our elections, much of PNG did not follow what went on for the past two weeks in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara. More than 22,000 people converged on the small Melanesian neighbour over the two weeks which we are certain was a welcome respite for the country struggling economy.
There a cultural extravaganza was in full blossom with participants from no less than 23 countries of the South Pacific. Papua New Guinea, at the cost of K900,000, sent a 130-member delegation to the South Pacific Arts festival. The 130-member PNG team was formidable but, unfortunately, could only manage four troupes. There was a mask dance crew from New Ireland and Gulf, the famous Asaro mudmen from Eastern Highlands and a Sepik contemporary dance crew from the Maprik.
A bigger team with perhaps more different performances or even the teams were able to perform a variety of different dances and costumes from throughout the country might have helped display PNG’s rich cultural diversity far more.

To its eternal shame, Papua New Guinea has done little over the years to promote the richness of its diverse people. Slowly, over time cultural museums in the provinces have evaporated.
There are no longer any contemporary song and dance groups.
The rare skills of carving, of ornate designs in belt making, of fashioning canoe heads, the art of making bilum, are all but extinct today.
Yes, culture is dynamic and that nothing can remain static but at least the old ways must be remembered before the change of times can be added to the original.
Without a cultural identity, this nation is without a soul.

Sapuri: PNG reports high cancer Rate 

The National, July 20th, 2012

PAPUA New Guinea has one of the highest rates of oral and cervical cancer in the world, a gynae­cologist says. At the launching of the new vaccine, Gardasil, last week at the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby, Dr Mathias Sapuri said a health department report had shown increases in cases of cancer among women. He said statistics from 2000-04 showed breast cancer in the 15-44 age groups rose from 8.49 per 100,000 in 2000 to 46.5 in 2004.
Cervical cancer increased from 69.8 per 100,000 in 2000 to 96.7 in 2004.
Oral cancer also rose from 26.6 100,000 in 2000 to 41.7 in 2004 in the same age group.
“Real figures could be higher as technology and data are not up to date,” he said.
Sapuri said cervical cancer was the leading killer of women in the country, claiming more than 3,000 lives every year.

Social transformation & violence in Papua New Guinea

From   Pacific Institute

Engendering Violence in Papua New Guinea. Edited by Margaret Jolly and Christine Stewart with Carolyn Brewer. Available online or in paperback from ANU E Press

 THIS COLLECTION BUILDS on previous works on gender violence in the Pacific, but goes beyond some previous approaches to domestic violence or violence against women in analysing the dynamic processes of engendering violence in PNG.

‘Engendering’ refers not just to the sex of individual actors, but to gender as a crucial relation in collective life and the massive social transformations ongoing in PNG: conversion to Christianity, the development of extractive industries, the implanting of introduced models of justice and the law and the spread of HIV.

Hence the collection examines issues of ‘troubled masculinities’ as much as ‘battered women’ and tries to move beyond the black and white binaries of blaming either tradition or modernity as the primary cause of gender violence.

Free shopping rumours create chaos [in Wewak]

The National, 25th July, 2012

WEWAK town was thrown into chaos yesterday morning after rumours circulated that there would be free shopping. People, mainly youths, wrestled with security guards to try to enter supermarkets and shops. There was total confusion as all major shops and supermarkets in town closed out of fear of looting. Police mobile squad personnel who were in the province, joined local police in preventing people from entering the shops. The rumour that shops would open and let people pick things for free started spreading around Wewak soon after Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s election victory was announced last Saturday.

The shops remained closed in the morning and reopened at midday with armed policemen stationed outside.

Get serious with education

The National, Thursday July 26th, 2012

The question of having the nation’s children and youth educated without cost to the parent is a utopian ideal. Very few countries in the world have tried this policy, and those that have could not sustain fully the costs associated with the public service.
If the new government is serious about staying the course providing free education, then the honeymoon is over with regards to the pronouncements and posturing. The 2013 school year is barely seven months away and an O’Neill-led coalition government, which would be formed after the return of writs, would have to make the call on rolling out the policy in effect come 2013.
Is the timeframe feasible? Can it be done?
We would have to answer in the negative, simply for the reason that the whole polling and counting period has been a protracted affair with so many instances of irregularity and foul play being alleged in electorates across the country. The courts will be swamped with many a losing candidate disputing results. That alone virtually assures a government with preoccupations taking it away from its job of governing the nation. Despite this potential delay, if free education is to become the reality many parents are hoping for, then, there is another set of entirely different and, perhaps, more important questions that must be answered sufficiently before the policy can be implemented.
If you increase the volume of students through school gates overnight, then, that too will bring on problems of its own. PNG schools and education institutions must be suitably staffed, equipped and built up to cater for this expected increase in student numbers. This is where the real costs lie as many schools already operate on a bare minimum of facilities and materials.

Presently, the statistics quoted by various state departments, including education and labour, estimate that of the 50,000 (secondary and tertiary) school leavers churned out annually, only a fifth can be absorbed directly into the workforce. This means the government is faced with a problem that is growing rapidly. Job creation is the obvious answer but the graduating student must also be of a standard that allows him or her to find employment.
Urbanisation has recently become a buzz word in economic circles. But the incoming government must set aside resources and come up with workable strategies to reshape  the country’s economy back to one where there is more emphasis on agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry and cottage industries. They should be re-established as the backbone of the economy.
So the conundrum the next prime minister faces in relation to the free education policy, if he chooses to pursue it, is to provide every child an education and, at the same time, maintain and improve the quality of schooling. And at the end, provide jobs for the graduates the system produces. It is a tall order but one that holds the key to the nation’s future.

20 die in Southern Highlands after facilities close

The National, Friday July 20th, 2012

AT least 20 people have died in Southern Highlands’ Nipa-Kutubu electorate after health centres serving about 100,000 people closed last month due to a shortage of medicine. District administrator for Nipa-Kutubu Robin Pip told The National yesterday from Nipa that all the health centres shut down early last month. Pip said a private company engaged by the Health Department to deliver medical supplies to his district failed to do so in the past four months.
He gave his district vehicle to the staff of Nipa health centre on three occasions to drive into Mt Hagen to enquire about their supplies. The workers at the area medical store assured them of the supply but didn’t deliver, Pip said.

Cop admits to raping suspect

The National, June 25th, 2012

A POLICEMAN has admitted raping a woman inside a room at the Boroko police cell.
Danny Karayo pleaded guilty before Justice George Manuhu in the Waigani National Court last Thursday.
Police said on March 7, 2010, the victim was sexually assaulted by Karayo inside the finger-printing room. The woman had been detained for questioning.
Karayo, who was on duty that night, approached the victim between 4am and 5am and threatened her into having sex with him.
He told the woman that if she refused, he would take her to where 50 other detainees were kept and they would all rape her.

Treasury: LNG proceeds won’t impact in leaps and bounds

The National, July 13th, 2012

DESPITE all the hype, proceeds from the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will not impact the economy significantly in the short to medium term, according to the Treasury Department.
The economy will continue to grow between 2013 and 2016 but not in the “leaps and bounds” fashion many associate with the advent of the first gas in 2014. Total revenue is projected to grow from K8.9 billion next year to K11.8 billion in 2016. Recurrent expenditure is projected to grow by K1 billion a year from K6.06 billion next year to K9.15 billion three years later. Development expenditure – that money to develop the country – will actually be stagnant over the period and indeed will recede. Anticipated development expenditure for 2013 is K4.29 billion. Come 2016 this expenditure will be only K4.1 billion. A paper was presented recently by Nancy Lelang, acting assistant secretary for the forecasting branch of the Economic Policy Division.
It is critical that government expenditure be kept stable in line with projected revenue over the medium term. Any uncontrolled spending by the incoming government this year will impact significantly in future.

Chase your dreams, says Mek

The National, July 27th, 2012

PRESIDENT of the highlands region council of women Paula Mek says women in PNG should take advantage of the momentum set by the new female MPs and chase their dreams.
She said their victory was an eye opener for every woman in the country and they should look ahead and aim for their goals. Now is the time for women to carry on with what they think is healthy for them, their families and the nation. Speaking to The National at her Paula Haus Win guest house in Mt Hagen yesterday, Mek said woman had the potential to take up politics and businesses, and address issues affecting the country. She said Delilah Gore’s victory in the Sohe open seat and Loujaya Toni’s in the Lae open seat was a triumph for women in this country.
It needed only commitment and concentration to move things ahead, she said.
She said Dame Carol Kidu’s decision to quit politics may have caused some women to think they could no longer share responsibilities with men in the decision-making roles.

The Word from Anna

THE DRUM   Post Courier  26/7/2012
FORMER WORD Publishing newspaper GM and long serving journo Anna Solomon was a very happy woman yesterday. She proudly quipped: “Three of the current MPs are all ex Word Publishing products. Current NCD Governor Powes Parkop started as a journo at The Times before Anna sent him off to law school. New Lae MP Loujaya Toni was also a Wantok reporter before Anna saw her singing talent and packed her off to music school. Then there was in the days of ‘cut and paste’, a young paste up artist named Titus Philemon at Word Publishing, now the returning Governor of Milne Bay. Philemon left Word because he wanted to help set up a bakery back home. It now seems the dough has risen, the buns have been baked and we are now awaiting the bread crumbs!

Greenpeace Report on SABLs in PNG

http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/PageFiles/441577/Up_For_Grabs.pdf

The report also reveals that

– Log exports in PNG grew by almost 20 per cent in 2011 due almost entirely to logging within SABLs.

– Since 2006, logging companies have exported over 1.5 million cubic metres of whole logs from SABLs, amassing over USD 145 million for the companies involved.

– 75 per cent of SABLs are controlled by foreign-owned corporations and almost all the logs are being exported to China.

– The PNG Government was grossly negligent in its responsibility to protect the rights of customary landholders while they were being pressured by logging companies to hand over their land.

Commonwealth observers’ interim statement on PNG’s National Elections   http://www.thecommonwealth.org/news/248442/110712pnginterim.htm

Key Findings

Papua New Guinea’s 2012 elections have seen some progress and some setbacks in the country’s efforts to strengthen its democracy. Up to this point, some of the benchmarks for democratic processes have been met, but several serious concerns need to be addressed for the future. Significant challenges remain to achieve the efficient and effective management of elections to ensure maximum franchise for citizens, appropriate and consistent electoral practices for the exercise of that franchise, and a strong culture of democracy throughout the country.

Legal Framework

· Overall, the legal framework in Papua New Guinea provides the necessary foundation for democratic elections. This includes universal suffrage, and the safeguarding of human rights such as freedom of association, assembly and movement.

· A major remaining obstacle to democracy is the widespread, deeply-rooted discrimination against women. The Commonwealth Observer Group strongly emphasises the need to accelerate efforts to establish a legal framework and other measures to address the very uneven playing field for women’s political participation.

The Campaign

· Those with whom we met in the final days of the campaign period reported that the campaigning was competitive, and mostly peaceful. Candidates generally complied with the campaign deadline of 22 June 2012.

· Concerns were raised, however, with the Group about the rise of money politics in these elections, including widespread reported attempts by candidates to bribe voters directly, on a scale far greater than ever before. The Group encourages the further strengthening and enforcement of laws relating to campaign financing, bribery, treating and undue influence.

Election Management

· The staff of the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission, both in Port Moresby and around the country, worked hard in very challenging circumstances. Nevertheless, the Group observed that there was an unfortunate level of disorganisation and inconsistency in aspects of election management.

· Widespread delays in the polling schedule were of concern, given their potential to confuse and disenfranchise voters, and the cost and security implications of further extending an already lengthy election period. Delays occurred in certain places due to weather conditions, but in many cases were caused by late distribution of polling materials and personnel, tardy payment of allowances to officials and security forces, and failures in logistics planning. Commonwealth observers sometimes detected a lack of urgency to ensure that the polling schedule was met. Attention needs to be given to the further strengthening of election management, including refining the systems for delegated authority to the provincial and district levels, to ensure the necessary efficiency, oversight and accountability for a timely and effective poll.

Electoral Roll

· The Group observed problems with the electoral roll in all provinces visited. The proportion of voters turned away varied between areas, and there were multiple apparent causes including: the integrity of the electoral roll itself, confusion over names used by voters, a lack of clarity in the allocation of voters to specific Wards, and the limited ability of polling officials to verify enrolment information on polling day.

· The widespread disenfranchisement of citizens of Papua New Guinea who wished to vote is a serious problem that must be addressed through a more reliable and efficient voter registration and electoral roll management system, including the incorporation of some form of voter identification, and better measures for verification and redress during polling. This issue has been repeatedly raised during past elections in Papua New Guinea, including by Commonwealth observer groups. It must be addressed as an urgent priority following the 2012 election.

Voting

· There were significant delays to the opening time of polling stations almost everywhere, and this was exacerbated by the observation of Commonwealth Observer Group members in many places that polling stations also closed earlier than 6pm. Failure to accord sufficient respect to the designated polling times has the potential to disenfranchise voters, and is a serious concern.

· The Group witnessed wide variance in voting practices around the country. In coastal and islands provinces, the procedures were correctly followed in most respects, and voters (whose names were located on the electoral roll) were able to exercise their votes freely and in secret.

· In the Highlands provinces, on the other hand, a great many anomalies were observed in the practice of voting. Most of the polling stations we visited did not provide for the secrecy of the ballot, with voting taking place in public and often being done by polling officials or even by candidates or scrutinisers on behalf of voters. Our teams also saw multiple voting, “bloc” voting, and apparently underage voters, in a number of locations.

· We were also concerned by reports of intimidation of voters by candidates and their supporters at certain polling locations.

· The Group welcomed the initiative taken to provide for voters with disability in the 2012 election. Members of the Group visited the dedicated facilities established for disabled voters in Port Moresby and Lae, and also witnessed disabled voters being given priority and assistance in several other polling places. These steps toward empowering persons with disability as participants in the electoral process are laudable, and the Group hopes they can be further built upon in future elections.

The Count

· Although there have been some procedural disputes and delays, the counting process, as observed by members of the Group so far, has been conducted in a transparent and diligent manner.

· A positive development observed by the Group was the new system for digital transmission of results from counting centres to the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission, which allowed for timely updating of results on the Commission’s website and through the media. This has increased the transparency of the counting process, and is to be commended.

· The Group will continue to monitor the counting and results processes in the coming days.

Security

· The Commonwealth Observer Group welcomes the patience and restraint of the vast majority of people involved with the election, and the excellent work of many members of the security forces, which have resulted to date in a largely peaceful poll.

· There have been, however, some serious incidents of election-related violence, some of which resulted in the tragic loss of life and destruction of property. The Group is also aware of some attempts to disrupt the election in particular locations, including by hijacking or destroying ballot boxes. The Group welcomes the efforts of security forces to stop these actions and arrest their perpetrators, and urges all Papua New Guineans to refrain from criminal acts that interfere with the election process.

· Concerns were raised with the Group about some members of the security forces in certain areas acting in support of particular candidates. The Group emphasises that all security personnel must remain completely objective and impartial at all times in the performance of their duties.

At this crucial stage in the electoral process, the Commonwealth Observer Group urges all Papua New Guineans to continue to exercise patience and to allow the election process to be completed in a peaceful and lawful way. The Group likewise urges the Papua New Guinean Electoral Commission and other relevant authorities to ensure that the counting and results processes and those steps which follow, including any election-related legal matters, be concluded in a timely and transparent manner, in order to ensure full accountability for, and confidence in, the outcomes of the election.

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 11 July 2012

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