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Deferral of elections is assault on democracy, says Transparency

PNGns walk against corruption 2018
Many hundreds of Papua New Guineans in Port Moresby and other cities walked against corruption in recent protest rallies throughout the country

KEITH JACKSON

PORT MORESBY - Transparency International PNG (TIPNG) says the on-off-on and now, finally it seems, off again 2018 local level government elections in Papua New Guinea is both unconstitutional and will disrupt basic services in local communities.

“The decision by prime minister Peter O’Neill to defer the elections to 2019 is unconstitutional and an assault on democracy,” said TIPNG chairman Lawrence Stephens.

O’Neill has justified the deferral by claiming that funds set aside for the election need to be used to provide outstanding allowances to councillors.

“This is deplorable,” said Stephens. “It indicates that it is the government’s view that constitutional rights can be violated on the basis of poor fiscal management by state agencies.

“Financial matters, such as outstanding allowances, is an administrative issue and shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the government for the delay.”

The deferral of local elections is not consistent with the organic law on provincial and local level government that national and local elections should have concurrent terms.

“TIPNG is seriously concerned that such a move to defer the LLG elections sets another bad precedent with disregard for the law being practice with impunity,” Stephens said.

“The move also denies the people of Papua New Guinea the chance to exercise their democratic right to periodically elect their local level governments.

“The delivery of basic government services to local communities will be disrupted and ordinary citizens will suffer the most if the LLG elections are pushed to April 2019.”

In a recent statement coinciding with the annual walk against corruption, TIPNG said that a lack of integrity leads to corruption.

“Integrity is a cure to corruption,” the statement said. “If people always acted with integrity there would be no corruption. There would be no need to eradicate this global systemic and systematic problem.

“Papua New Guinea is going through a challenging time. Most pressing for the nation is the chipping away of civil liberties enshrined within the national constitution.

“The battle for integrity remains to be won,” the statement said.

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