Showdown looms after PNG's West Sepik by-election
Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commission has faced criticism over the West Sepik provincial by-election while the position at stake appears to be the subject of a looming showdown.
Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commission has faced criticism over the West Sepik provincial by-election currently underway.
The vote to find a new governor for West Sepik comes after Amkat Mai's victory in the seat in the 2012 general was subsequently ruled to be invalid.
Johnny Blades reports
Polling in the West Sepik provincial by-election is in its final stages but it appears that many people are not voting. The Electoral Commissioner Sir Andrew Trawen admits voter numbers are well down on the turnout at the 2012 national elections. A candidate for West Sepik Governor, John Tekwie, says polling was poorly advertised.
JOHN TEKWIE: There is no official announcement properly done where people are aware of the time and place for polling. It's a big problem. They haven't even publicised it in the public media.
Commission spokesman Alphonse Muapi says polling was originally to have ended last Friday but was extended another week to the end of the month due to logistical and other challenges.
ALPHONSE MUAPI: The weather is not good, bad weather conditions, and the helicopters hired by the PNG Electoral Commission to airlift polling teams and security personnel. They've been facing technical problems and so that contributed to the delay in airlifting polling teams and security personnel to the respective polling locations to conduct polling.
Polling has been especially behind schedule in remote Telefomin district - due partly, according to Alphonse Muapi, to problems around police demanding upfront payment. In the end, the polling teams went out to Telefomin without full security provision. According to another candidate, Paul Negai, the logistical challenges in the by-election are not new and that the Commission should have learnt how to improve the process.
PAUL NEGAI: The Electoral Commission, election after election, have been facing the same problem, because of the logistics and the terrain of the country. I get that they're not learning from their mistakes for the next election. That's the slackness I'm seeing in the Electoral Commission.
He says with funding for the Commission coming in late, and polling starting behind schedule, the process was always on the back foot.
PAUL NEGAI: There is very little publicity, so many people are not turning up at the polling booths. In fact many people have been turned away because they don't have their names on the common roll. Some who voted in 2012, they're surprised to see that their names are not in the book, so I don't know which common roll book the Electoral Commission is using for this by-election. So these are the continuous problems that the Electoral Commission has been giving to the voters.
The province has been without a permanent governor for almost two years and the long wait appears to be reaching a not entirely clear conclusion. That's because the MP currently claiming to be the acting Governor of West Sepik says that regardless of the result of the by-election, he will continue to hold the position. Belden Namah, the Vanimo Green MP, was controversially elected to fill the vacant Governor's seat in April by 13 local level government presidents. Although PNG's State Solicitor has declared that this election failed to follow proper procedures, Belden Namah is standing firm. John Tekwie says Mr Namah is trying to manipulate the democratic process.
JOHN TEKWIE: If I win this election, I'll give him twenty-four hours to leave the office. If he doesn't leave the office, I'll visit him, lock the door and if I have to bash him up I'll do it for the interests of democracy. We can not tolerate these stupid, uneducated bus-kanaka politicians confusing our innocent people around the country and especially our province.
Mr Namah has told PNG media that unless the by-election is won by his party's candidate, he will not relinquish the position, and the victor will simply be the regional member, but not governor. The position is likely to be contested in court.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: