20 Jun 2002

PNG poll problems continue amid calls to declare election null and void

4:54 pm on 20 June 2002

Problems with the Papua New Guinea election continue, with some electorates facing delays and others being affected by irregularities and violence.

Rival candidates in the Western Highlands have appealed to the Govenor General go declare the elections null and void, saying they fear warfare in their electorates.

The call was made by candidates, including Governor Robert Lak, after two days of chaotic and violent polling in the province which saw two people shot dead.

The Western Highlands Deputy Administrator Malcolm Culligan says people were forced to vote under the barrel of gun by candidate supporters.

"The electoral commission has not given objection time period and the common roll was mixed up all over. We had guns, people had been casting votes under the gunpoint, we have underage children casting votes under pressure again."

Malcolm Culligan

Today's scheduled polling in Enga and in Eastern highlands province have been deferred until tomorrow because of bad weather.

A spokesperson from the Enga and Eastern Highlands Electoral Office, who wished to remain anonymous, says there are a range of problems.

It's logistics and heavy downpour of rain, it's just a matter of getting the teams out to the locations.

Counting in the Lae Open electorate was due to being today although thousands of people had not been able to vote.

This has prompted speculation that the results will be challenged in court.

There is also concern that the same ballot boxes were used to store the votes for both Lae Open and the Morobe Regional seat.

Scrutineers in the capital say the normal procedures have not been followed and counting has been delayed.

Counting in all three open electorates in Port Moresby was cancelled last night because of security concerns.

The Electoral Officer on the island of Bougainville says ex-combatants have re-armed themselves as a security measure during the elections.

Mathias Pihei says the ex-combatants broke into the firearms storage containers because the self declared state of Mekamui extended its no go zone boundary by five kilometres.

Mr Pihei says the ex-combatants saw the boundary extension as a threat by Francis Ona's armed Mekamui group which has stayed out of the peace process.

He says ex combatants are protecting polling booths straddling the no go zone border and South Panguna from the Mekamui group.

Those ex-combatants in those areas, they're saying the no-go zone should not increase it should remain where it is. So they've erected a sign there at the pump station telling those people out there don't come. To make sure those who erected the no-go zone policy properly they took out the arms in the containers and are now providing security around those areas.

Mathias Pihei says voting in Bougainville is peaceful despite a three-day delay in polling and problems transporting ballot papers to the electorates.

He says more than 2-thousand voters in unreachable parts of Bougainville will not be able to cast their votes because of transport problems.