24 Nov 2009

PNG's Kandep by-election vote counting lapses into chaos

9:49 pm on 24 November 2009

A by-election in Papua New Guinea is reported to have descended into chaos with armed gunmen ruling parts of the Kandep electorate amid controversy over the shifting of vote counting.

The Post Courier reports trees have been felled on nearly all roads in the Kandep district, preventing police from stopping tribal clashes between supporters of the main candidates.

Government houses and buildings have been looted or burned after some public servants fled and government agencies closed their doors.

Armed tribesmen are also reported to be holding sway outside a high school as education chiefs refuse to help teachers from other provinces leave because of fears vehicles will be damaged.

That comes as Eastern Highlands leaders oppose the decision of the head of the Election Commission Andrew Trawen to ferry ballot boxes to their provincial capital, Goroka, in a shift of the vote counting venue from Mt Hagen.

Police in Goroka reportedly apprehended eight men with highpowered guns on Monday.