THE title of this article may raise eyebrows but I believe I have evidence to show it is factual and I suspect that electoral commissioner Patilius Gamato is likely to be knowingly involved.
The first indication of manipulation came with the printing and circulation of an extra five million ballot papers above and beyond the number of eligible voters. It will be interesting to learn how Gamato [pictured] accounts for this.
As reported by Jimmy Awagl in a recent article in PNG Attitude, after pressure from candidates, scrutineers and general public, the Simbu election steering committee demanded from electoral commissioner Gamato that all boxes of ballot papers sent from Port Moresby be opened and verified against the eligible voting population in each ward.
It was also insisted that the back of each rechecked ballot paper be identified with a stamp approved by the steering committee and signed by its chairman, provincial administrator Joe Kunda Naur MBE.
The third ultimatum was that the 2017 preliminary common roll update be used for polling.
After some hesitation, electoral commissioner Gamato eventually conceded to all three demands.
When the steering committee went through all ballot boxes, it was amazed to find that there had been systematic manipulation in the allocation of ballot papers.
In the stronghold areas of PNC Party candidates, the number of ballot papers had been inflated by 100% or more. The inflated numbers had been deducted from rival candidates’ areas thus effectively reducing the number of ballot papers available in those wards.
For example, Ward 1 in Yongomugl LLG, which is the stronghold of Kerenga Kua, has 2,400 eligible voters but only 880 ballot papers were allocated by the electoral commission.
What happened to the balance of 1,520 ballot papers? They were found in boxes designated for the stronghold of PNC Party endorsed candidate Peter Dege who is challenging Kerenga Kua.
After fixing the anomalies in the boxes, a total of 10,070 extra ballot papers were extracted - 3,000 and 2,000 each for Gumine (PNC Party’s MP Nick Kuman), Kundiawa-Gembogl (PNC Party’s MP Tobias Kulang), 2,400 for Kerowagi, 2,300 for Chuave and 370 for Sinesine-Yongomugl.
Despite a plea from Gamato for the return of the extra ballot papers citing that they were state property belonging to the electoral commission, the Simbu election steering committee ordered the burning of the extra papers.
They were duly destroyed in front of all stakeholders, including security forces, at Kundiawa Police Station.
The rigging of this election could only have been foiled by all election stakeholders - candidates, scrutineers, voters, provincial election steering committee, electoral officials and security personnel – being vigilant, smart and honest.
The action in Simbu is ensuring that a true reflection of the people’s wishes will be articulated in this election.
But elsewhere, unfortunately, this is unlikely to be the case.
If the current level of security and public vigilance in Kundiawa continues, Simbu will most likely be the only highlands province that produces an election outcome with a high degree of credibility.