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- Published: Tuesday, 04 July 2017 22:03
PNG ELECTIONS IN PROGRESS, STATEMENT BY BISHOP ROCHUS TATAMAI MSC
STATEMENT ON THE STATE OF THE NATIONAL ELECTIONS:
Like all Democratic States that exist the Independent State of Papua New Guinea on the 16th September 1975 at the enactment of its Constitution, and subsequent to its independence, entered into an invisible contract with its own people. The two (2) contracting parties to this invisible Contract are the Independent State of Papua New Guinea which is the legally circumscribed structure or government system and the Nation of Papua New Guinea which comprised of the people or indigenous citizens of Papua New Guinea.
This invisible contract is commonly referred to as “Social Contract” in which the ostensible contractual essence is the meeting of two minds (Consensus ad idem) where the willing people give their power to the State in exchange for the Common good from the State in the form of the Delivery of goods and service and Protection of lives and properties. This Social Contract between the Nation of Papua New Guinea and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea is often renewed every five years when citizens exercise their constitutional rights by going to the polls to choose from amongst themselves 111 people of their individual choice, to represent them and their common good. This individual preference is done through an election process.
With much anticipation the Nation of Papua New Guinea for the last five (5) years, since the last election, have waited on the Independent State of Papua New Guinea to deliver the much proclaimed of “a free, fair and safe election”, that moment has now arrived.
From what we have witnessed through the Media reports and eventful first-hand experiences over the last few days as the Nation of Papua New Guinea went to the polls, there has been an utterly disrespectful display of contempt against our humane citizenship. It is very embarrassing to the international community and a national disgraceful to us as a descent people, and a nation, more so, as an independent State, especially as a member State of the Commonwealth of Nations to which “Rule of Law” is the authoritative norm that sets the foundation of Democracy, and yet, to be experiencing such undisciplined and highly questionable circumstances that draw negative impressions that are generating conflicting reports as well as confusion and frustration amongst the general population as a whole.
While those amongst us entrusted the constitutional task to assist in the delivering of a free, fair and safe election are trying their very best to make it happen the way it is intended to be, yet at the same time truly frustrating to note that nearly in all districts and provinces at the 11th hour all polling booths have encountered overwhelming discrepancies in the following terms:
- Numerous, if not most, eligible voter’s names are not on the common roll.
It must be well noted that one among the number of priorities of the incumbent government was their national assurance to the citizens that they will ensure all the relevant and thorough preparations and appropriate procedures necessary for the successful delivery of the 2017 election were concurrent and guaranteed.
There was good budget commitments with so much money was spent by the Independent State of Papua New Guinea on a number of common roll updating exercises, and valuable resources such as time was exhausted to implement the exercise by the Local-Level and Provincial Governments to assist the Electoral Commission compile what was deemed the most updated and anticipated accurate Common Roll. This however, has obviously not been done and as a result the Electoral Commissioner has directed the use of the preliminary 2012 common roll which has been superseded by the current one but has proven unreliable. What happens now to those who are deceased in the meantime? How about those who had since entered their eligible age for voting at 18?
Those who are responsible must be dealt with according to law as it is their duty to ensure this election is fair by properly updating the common roll to give the opportunity to everyone to exercise their constitutional right by casting their votes. Turning citizens away at the polling booths because they have no name on the common roll is in itself an act of the abortion of natural course of justice and those responsible must be dealt with accordingly.
- Financial and Logistics problem
The lack of Logistics and funds to support the quest to deliver a free, fair and safe election is an exhibition of incompetency and lack of both management and administrative skills by those who are constitutionally charged with the duty to successfully deliver such an election. They were expected to competently prepare and plan to deliver the election with minimum logistical related problems with due respect to our typical geographical and lack of infra-structural challenges. The question goes begging as to how far were the levels and degrees of preparedness were those responsible people tasked with this constitutional duty were they really ready for such an important national political event as National General Elections happens only every five years.
Tasked with such constitutional duty and having prior acknowledgement and official ownership that there was shortage or scarcity of funds and related resources that will badly affect the successful delivery of a free fair and safe election one would have expected there be a realistic and manageable “PLAN B” to properly executed and accommodate any unforeseeable discrepancies to ensure that the election is carried out, with minimum disruptions, according to plan and on budget.
- The overwhelming use of counterfeit or fake ballot papers.
These are very worrying and disturbing reports and observations as far as National Security Intelligence System and our Sovereign credibility as a Nation is concerned. What wisdom and common decency behind the printing of ballot papers outside of our jurisdiction which may have prompted some people with evil intent or wrong interest to produce ballot papers of identical face. Such tendency and decision to print ballot papers for a constitutional election out and external of concerned jurisdiction is in itself an act that impeaches on our National Security Intelligence System and ridiculously undermines our Sovereignty. Such a decision with serious National implication would have been done with due care, pride and security consciousness.
One may ask a simple yet fundamental question whether such decision and action of printing ballot papers externally is NOT in itself an act of trading off our dear national pride. Even a mere physical appearance and presence of an only one counterfeit ballot paper is already overwhelming proof of incompetence and mal-conduct. Furthermore a ballot box filled with counterfeit ballot papers is simply a disaster, ridiculous, and saddening, and must be condemned in every strongest sense of the word.
- The inconsistency in the supply of Ballot Papers.
There have been also reported situations around the country where a number of polling booths have been either under-supplied with Ballot Papers or oversupplied. This again raises the issue of planning and management as to what has happened to the production of the ten (10) million ballot papers, or what is intended to happen, when we only have around four (4) million eligible voters. Why has there been no proper coordination over the allocation, distribution and supply of ballot papers. This is another fatal factor as to why people have not been able to demonstrate their democratic rights to cast their votes due to the non-availability or undersupply of ballot papers.
- The Irregular and unprofessional conduct of Electoral Officials.
Ø The stern refusal by the Electoral Commissioner to replace certain Electoral Officials at the request of the citizens for having had involvement in previous election related incidences, allegations and misconducts that had compromised their impartiality and credibility.
Ø The boycotting of polling officials over non-payments of camping allowances which has disrupted the smooth flow of polling.
Ø The convoying and transfer of Ballot boxes and Ballot papers without proper Police Escort and Scrutiny.
Ø The discovery of counterfeit and fake ballot papers which has resulted in a number of disposals by burning.
Ø The surprising and hasty decision to overturn or disrupt schedule election activities like polling even when the people are ready.
Ø The non-payment of outstanding bills for service providers.
Ø The entering into certain contracts by polling officials with candidates
Ø The voluntary assumption of risk by electoral official by not utilizing the telegraphic or electronic money transfer but opting to carry around large sums of cash to pay polling officials at the various polling stations drawing on themselves suspicions and causing unnecessary delays on the election process.
Ø The unnecessary deployment of additional soldiers to certain selected places around the country to intimidate voters in the cover of security.
Ø Tampering with ballot box and ballot papers
Ø Impersonating voters and underage voting
Ø And lack of fit and proper security for voters and the voting areas
All these had now brought to public discussion and debate the constitutional impartiality which in most cases has triggered public scrutiny and criticism that the election process may have been rigged and the rule of law trampled on and justice is compromised and the web of Democracy has been hosed down.
Hence, the Electoral Commission is essentially an Office established by the Constitution for the purpose of ensuring that any election every five years must always be fair, free and safe. This justifies the existence of this office and necessary budget commitment. It takes an interval of five years to properly prepare and deliver a successful free, fair and safe election.
The ultimate test on the capability and competence of this office is put to public scrutiny only during an election process every five years or in any by-election. The electoral Commission is the only Constitutional Office that has five years’ term to prepare then deliver in the election.
Therefore, to deliver an election in such a disturbing manner as we’re now experiencing so far is nothing more than an omission and absence of a statutory duty of care to the citizens, and the arrogant and careless way of doing it is nothing less than disregarding the national interest of Papua New Guinea and treating the citizens with disrespect and contempt.
These are substantial grounds to render this election unconstitutional and we joined all concerned citizens as well as many other responsible and concerned leaders with the general public express our utter frustration and disbelieve that such irregularities, discrepancies, inconsistencies and confusions are allowed to enter and ruin this democratic and constitutional process of the National General Election 2017. The office of the Electoral Commission and office holder had thus far demonstrated the inability to properly manage the delivery of a much anticipated successful Free, Fair and Safe election to the Nation of Papua New Guinea thus has in itself qualified him to disqualify himself.
ROCHUS JOSEF TATAMAI MSC
BISHOP OF BEREINA DIOCESE
PRESIDENT OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF PNG & SI