21 Jun 2002

PNG election beset by irregularities

5:15 pm on 21 June 2002

As the Papua New Guinea election is about to enter its second week, the prime minister has appealed to candidates and police to prevent further poll-related violence.

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

Sir Mekere says his relatives and staff have been among the victims.

He has asked the police commissioner to take the threats seriously and identify the ringleaders.

Power supply problems have delayed counting in Port Moresby but preliminary results indicate that Lady Carol Kidu and a former prime minister, Bill Skate, have an early lead 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 Labour Party leader, John Paska, says the election is the worst on record, with a lack of efficiency, violence, death and voting irregularities.

Mr Paska says the entire debacle is tantamount to usurping the constitutional process.

And he says the process denies the people the right to political determination.

Mr Paska says the buck stops with the prime minister who must take responsibility for what he calls the most shocking election.

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.