By GIBSON GEORGE TORASO
WITH the 2017 general elections starting in April, the country’s security forces are preparing to play their part in this five-yearly event. Police are also a pivotal part of ensuring the elections runs smoothly and work is already underway to prepare policemen and women for this demanding and sometimes difficult operation.
While that is the daily routine for police across the country, one provincial police commander in the Highlands region and his officers are setting a precedent by conducting a pre-election awareness operation apart from their regular policing duties.
They were not only setting the precedent but an example that can be followed by other police commanders and their officers around the country to educate the public about law, order, elections, importance of voting, bribery among others.
And this is exactly what Jiwaka provincial police commander Supt Joseph Tondop is doing with his officers. They currently are conducting pre-election operations for Jiwaka that involves touring the province to carry out voter-education, speak on the importance of voting a leader and its future implications and encouraging people to elect a leader that can bring development to the people, the districts and province. Listed on top of this operation is the maintenance of law and order.
“This is more than regular policing. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. It’s an education that will determine their future, their children’s future, their children’s children’s future,” Tondop said.
The task began last month and covers all parts of the three districts – Jimi, North Waghi and South Waghi. The awareness campaign began in Jimi and included talks on abstaining from violence for a fair and free polling and suggesting to voters to organize forums where candidates can debate on policy issues.
Tondop said voters should also take time to scrutinize and make background checks on intending candidates
“Do not throw away your votes for short-term material gain for now and you get nothing over the five years. If you bargain your vote for cash now, your vote is already useless,” Tondop said.
“Do not be fooled by candidates to buy your vote. It is your life, your children’s life and your children’s children’s lives that you are selling.”
In a place where the choice of a candidate can be forced upon voters by family leaders or other community leaders, he cautioned people to choose for themselves and not bring themselves to be coerced by people offering cash or kind.
Tondop also warned voters against using violence to secure votes for their candidates.
“Let candidates put up their posters for voters to read their policies so they can choose freely.”
“Organising debates will give you a better choice for a right candidate,” Tondop said.
Meanwhile the Jiwaka PPC had warned voters and candidates against owning and using of any illegal fire arms and playing large amount of money to bribe voters during the election.
He said the police had challenged community leaders and their people to help report or pass on information on people possessing illegal weapons.
“These weapons are serious threat to safe, free and fair conduct of the general elections.
“There is no legal obligation to use a lot of money to enter parliament. All the candidates need is public endorsement to hold a public office to be a civil servant,” Tondop said.
He said all candidates were seeking is public endorsement and not trying to become a businessman. So why running expensive campaigns with hired vehicles loaded with supporters going to campaign houses and feeding them daily and giving cash? This is a waste of resources and is promoting the free handout mentality and corruption.
Tondop appealed to his fellow police commanders around the country to mobilise their men into conducting pre-election awareness so that they can see better through the myriad of candidates who are vying for parliament.
He said it was not late than never for his colleagues to educate the voters and laws involved in election because there is logistics and police had no excuse to do that as we are paid and obliged to do our job.
Tabibuka station ward councilor Alua Tu and public servant Jeff Garner thanked Tondop and his policemen for taking the operation to the people for the first time and pledged their full support in the fight against corruption during elections.
The Jimi people were grateful for the election prep talk saying it was good to know that they can vote without fearing retribution from others.
The North Waghi leg of the election awareness campaign is currently progressing with South Waghi district to come into the picture in the next few weeks.
By GIBSON GEORGE TORASO