22 Jun 2002

PNG election beset by irregularities intimidation and violence

8:29 am on 22 June 2002

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, has called for an end to the violence that has disrupted the country's general election.

Sir Mekere, who is a candidate in Port Moresby, says many voters have been assaulted and intimidated by supporters of some candidates.

Power failures and security concerns have delayed counting in Port Moresby but preliminary results indicate that Sir Mekere, Lady Carol Kidu and former prime minister, Bill Skate, are all leading in their respective electorates.

In parts of the eastern highlands, voting was called off yesterday because of confrontations between candidates and their supporters.

In Goroka, there have been allegations of double voting and under-aged people casting votes.

In East New Britain, police have set up a special unit to to probe allegations of malpractice, fraud and other election-related offences.

Polling in Central province and in Gulf province is reported to be smooth although there have been transport problems.

The disturbances and irregularities are likely to lead to challenges while candidates in the western highlands say the election should be declared null and void.

But a constitutional law lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea, Eric Kwa, says such demands have to wait until polling is finished.

"The court has made it very clear that they would not interfere in the process, they will only interfere after the election results have been made known. In the current situation, the Governor General doesn't have any power under the constitution to declare the election null and void because when the election is in process the electoral commissioner becomes the ultimate authority. The allegations are that the right to stand for election and the right to vote have been violated. Those discrepancies can only be established by a court after the results have been declared."


Eric Kwa.

Meanwhile, a Southern Highlands MP has offered to purchase M-16 assault rifles for police carrying out election security in the province.

Alfred Kaiabe has written to the police commissioner warning him that police were "no match" for the heavily-armed criminals and tribal warriors in the area.

Mr Kaiabe said the weapons were needed urgently because several political candidates had smuggled in semi-automatic firearms for use during the poll.

Voting in Southern Highlands is due to start next week