PNG Electoral Commissioner plays down capital ballot drama

2:29 pm on 28 June 2017

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner says mishandled ballot papers caught by police in the capital yesterday will be replaced.

Patilas Gamato has denied allegations that several of electoral officers taken in for police questioning were involved in suspected bribery.

The elections manager of the National Capital District, Terrence Hetinu, was interrogated after he was found with cash in his official vehicle.

The capital police commander Sylvester Kalaut said Mr Hetinu had $US57,000.

Two assistant returning officers were also taken in for questioning and a number of ballot papers were confiscated.

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato

Papua New Guinea's Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

It came hours after the Electoral Commission deferred the NCD's polling for three days.

Mr Gamato said he was unaware of reports that 16 election officials were in police custody.

He said the capital would go to the polls on Friday.

"According to the information I got from Mr Kaluat there was about 1,000 ballot papers used and they are still in police custody," Mr Gamato said.

"What we will do is that we will get our officers to confirm the lists and we will leave the ballot papers as they are, in police custody.

"We don't have to bring them out. We will leave it and we will replace them with new ballot papers so they can be used for polling on Friday."

Despite complaints in several provinces about caches of ballot papers being illegaly handled by candidates, Mr Gamato said he was not aware of extra papers floating around.

He challenged people making such claims to present evidence.

Meanwhile, pressed on why Mr Hetinu had so much cash on him, Mr Gamato said the money was meant to be payment for polling officials in the district.

Unpaid allowances was the reason the Commission gave earlier on Tuesday for deferring polling to Friday in all three of the district's open electorates and its provincial electorate.

It had said allowances were not paid in cash, but Mr Gamato said the official was compelled to carry the money because the urgent situation around the polling officers' demands warranted it.

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