Don’t shoot the messengers


THE date set for the Return of Writs has been changed from July 29 (tomorrow) to Aug 12.
Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae made the decision in consultation with the Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai.
This will also set back the Opening of the 11th Parliament from Aug 4 to a later date.
The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections provides at Section 80 for the Writs to be returned no later than 21 days after the end of polling.
Subsection (2) provides that where special circumstances require, the Electoral Commission may, by notice in the National Gazette, extend the period beyond 21 days.
The present circumstances are extra-ordinary and therefore “special” within the meaning of the law.
Only 25 out of the 118 seat Parliament had been declared yesterday.
Most of the counting around the country are first preferences and have not entered elimination rounds.
In Enga violence has prevented polling to be completed in at least two electorates.
In view of the “special circumstances” we applaud the decision by the PNG Electoral Commission and the Governor-General.
It is the right decision to prevent a potential Constitutional crisis or worse, widespread violence and socio-economic upheaval.
Having said that, we must also call upon the PNG Electoral Commission and the incoming Parliament and Executive Government to learn from the lessons of this and past elections and to never repeat some of the glaring mistakes.
We list some here.
First, the Executive Government ought to have provided funding for and allowed a National Census when it fell due in 2021.
It did not but it did approve the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission which created no less than 13 new electorates.
These electorates are split based on population growth as the geographical area does not grow and so the new electorates could only have been established on guesstimates.
This is wrong. The absence of a census prevents any cross checking of Common Roll figures.
Second, the report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission was rushed through and approved in the last sitting of Parliament before it rose for the elections. It created 13 new electorates which needed separate common rolls to be compiled and for a revision of the 13 older electorates where the split occurred.
The Government complicated things further by approving elections to be run in only seven of the 13 and the rest to be available in 2027.
The net effect of this action was further deferral of election dates.
The common roll was not compiled until the final weeks before the Issue of Writs.
They were not displayed to the public as required by law.
The result has been numerous complaints from right around the country of exclusion of names.
Government has not provided funding and resources for the PNG Electoral Commission to carry out common roll updates and other important issues like awareness and public education prior to the general elections.
Recommendations made by the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission for some practical action to plug problem areas were ignored out of hand by Parliament.
These, among many other issues, when taken together have resulted in the confusion, the frustration, and the anger that have spilled out everywhere into violence.
Do not blame the people. The blame lies elsewhere most assuredly.
It has to be done better.
The blame for a badly run election and the responsibility to correct this mess lies squarely with the National Parliament and the Executive Gover nment.
Were these most obvious things done as they should have been, there would be no need to shoot the messengers and blame it on the common person, as the tendency tends to be, when something goes wrong.