THE hijacking of ballot papers and a manipulated common roll have becomes a nationwide scandal among Papua New Guinea’s voters.
It seems that the O’Neill ruling government has had influence over the common roll, ballot papers and ballot boxes to give every People’s National Congress candidate a better chance in this failed election.
The arrival of polling materials in Simbu Province a week prior to the scheduled date was secretive.
But speculation of hijacking and manipulating polling and counting spread among the people anyway.
The Simbu people have long been suspicious of the desperation of power hungry political parties.
A strong team of anti-O’ Neill and anti-PNC people fronted up at the provincial electoral office on a Monday and demanded that the election manager unlock the boxes containing the ballot papers prior the polling which commenced the following Monday 27 June.
The election manager complied and told his team to come the next day to unlock the boxes.
They duly turned up at the office and he told them to come the following day, giving as his reason a directive from the provincial police commander to sabotage the people’s request.
So opening the boxes for confirmation was deliberately deferred for four days. On a Friday afternoon, the election manager reluctantly opened the boxes with almost 700 people looking on.
As the first boxes were opened, spokesman Gorua William demanded, “Let’s use Sinesine-Yongomugl electorate’s ballot papers as a sample to verify the recent common roll.
“The Ward 1 Yongomugl local level government should have papers for a population of 2,408 eligible voters.”
The counting of the actual papers commenced and totalled only 880 ballot papers - a shortfall of 1,528.
“Where are the remaining papers?” Gorua William asked.
“Try to confirm the missing papers by undoing the seal for Suai LLG Ward 4, where the People’s National Congress candidate comes from.”
Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, the electoral officials broke the seal, opened the box and counted the papers.
There were supposed to be just 475, but there were in fact 2,003 ballot papers – the difference being the 1,528 papers missing from Ward 1 of Yongomugl LLG.
“Why have 2,003 papers been given to this ward rather than the 475 papers for eligible voters?” asked Gorua William adamantly.
The response from the officials was poor. They shifted the blame to the electoral commission which they said had undermined the updated 2017 common roll. The anti-PNC people demanded further actions and deliberations.
The spokesman proposed an urgent petition to the electoral commission to consider the foul play.
“Redistribute the ballot papers according to the 2012 common roll since the 2017 update is a mess,” he said.
The petition was faxed to the electoral commission and forwarded to the governor-general and finally it was gazetted for Simbu Province to implement according to the petition.
The provincial election manager directed the officials to redistribute the ballot papers for the six districts according to the 2012 common roll. Then the boxes was sealed with the provincial stamp and signed by provincial administrator Joe Kunda as proof that any foul play had been avoided.
Furthermore, the extra ballot papers were burned in front of the crowd’s eyes. This caused a two day polling delay in the province, voting finally starting on Wednesday 29 June.
Attempted foul play in SImbu was monitored by both the public and security personnel day and night but PNC candidates were desperate to hijack the counting. There were attempts made to hamper the counting with the insertion of additional ballot papers.
Security personnel and counting officials confiscated thousands of ballot papers from PNC candidates from Gumine, Kerowagi, Kundiawa-Gembogl and the Simbu Provincial seat. The people involved and their vehicles were apprehended and locked up. Most of the vehicles were stoned by the crowds.
Simbua people are working around the clock to ensure no foul play is evident at the counting arena.
However, they are appealing to other provinces in PNG about the amount of foul play which is evidence of hijacking this election in favour a single political party to retain its seats and regain government in September.
The democratic rights of people have been abused in the ways I have revealed, and I have not even mentioned the many attempts by PNC candidates to buy votes.
Is this democracy or communism? Is this political tyranny? It is certainly manipulation of process and system. In Simbu, citizens are asking such questions with so far no answer from the government.