Kompiam-Ambum – free and fair

Focus, Normal

The National – Friday, June 17, 2011

THE Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission, Department of Provincial and Local-level Government Affairs, anti-corruption groups and individuals and other stakeholders have been vocal about a free and fair general election next year.
While monetary issues over the national census and common roll update had been debated in recent times, other groups and individuals had openly discussed other concerns leading up to the general election.
One such group is the Community Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC), based in Wabag, Enga, whose membership comprised community and village leaders, young intellectuals and ward councillors and Village Court officers.
Concerned over the “unlawful establishment of Wali-Tarua local level government and new council wards” in the Kompiam-Ambum district, claiming this was done in preparation for 2012, CCAC petitioned Inter-Government Relations Minister Job Pomat and outlined the secrecy involved and the drafting of the proposed new wards and LLG and their submission to the provincial assembly for endorsement.
The petition stemmed from a public forum, held days earlier in Wabag town, where councillors, village and community leaders and youths spoke out against the new LLG and wards.
Prior to that, on April 8, the inter-government relations minister issued a detailed circular outlining the correct processes and procedures contained in the Organic Law on the establishment of LLGs and ward councils (sections 26, 27 & 28 on provincial governments and LLGs).
Pomat’s circular was also copied to all members of parliament, government departments and public servants.
The CCAC, in its observations on the developments in Kompiam-Ambum between March and last month, issued a statement this week claiming that the Wali-Tarua LLG and new wards were illegal.
“There are three existing LLGs in Kompiam-Ambum with 76 wards; Wali-Tarua brings to four the number of LLGs,” the coalition noted in its statement, entitled “Making way for corruption and foul play in 2012 elections – Kompiam-Ambum district”.
The CCAC statement said even after the minister’s circular, “government officers assigned to census and electoral matters in Kompiam-Ambum still went ahead and created new council wards, split existing council wards and listed the three high schools in the district as rest-houses” or, synonymously, wards.
This led to the May 26 forum. Notable attendees were district services and LLG administration coordinator Cleophas Roa; Kompaim-Ambum district administrator Roalo Bapu; Enga provincial representatives and public servants.
“The CCAC is of the firm opinion that the establishment of Wali-Tarua LLG has contravened section 26 (4) of the Organic Law, which states: ‘There shall be a maximum of three LLGs in an electorate (district) and the fourth shall only be created if special circumstances allow’.
“In the opinion of the people of the district, there is no special circumstance to warrant the creation of a new LLG,” the coalition statement said.
Interviews with a number of people living in the new LLG also revealed that many of them were not consulted.
“Councillors in the affected Kompiam central and Ambum LLGs have indicated that they did not pass any council resolution for the creation of a new LLG.
“Therefore, we believe that the office of the minister for inter-government relations has been misled into accepting the recommendations, if any, by the Enga provincial executive council,” CCAC said.
It also highlighted “contentious issues” relating to the creation of the Wali-Tarua LLG:
*The three existing LLGs have not been effectively delivering government services. What is the guarantee that the new LLG, once established, will deliver?
*There is non-accessibility to state land. Land issue would be a major problem and it will cost the state several millions of kina. There is no council chamber, electricity, staff houses and transport accessibility, among others;
*Population has declined due to continuous tribal fights, people migrating in search of basic government services and high mortality rates;
*There was nil community consultation;
*There was no council resolution unless one had been fabricated; and
*Boundaries of the new LLG had not been properly defined.
The CCAC also argued that the establishment of the new LLG, splitting of existing and creation of new council wards and making high schools was for political reasons with the general election less than eight months away.
“It has come to our attention that the local MP for Kompiam-Ambum has pushed for several existing council wards in the electorate to be split.
“Moreover, several new council wards have been created and the three high schools (Anditale, Yumbiliam and Kompiam) have been proposed as wards or rest houses,” the CCAC alleged.
It also noted that at the Wabag forum, many councillors and village leaders had questioned the position of the provincial government on the split in relation to other districts and LLGs in Enga.
The coalition said the split could not have been based on the 2000 census figures, because “that would be seriously misleading”.
“Some of the proposed council wards and rest houses have less than 50 people, prompting the likely registration of ghost names and children below the voting age.”
In his April 8 circular, the inter-government relations minister stressed on the legal parameters guiding the processes and procedures for establishing new LLGs and ward councils.
Pomat had outlined:
*Legal provisions necessary to establish LLGs and wards;
*Special circumstances that warrant the establishment of new LLGs and wards; and
*The processes and procedures for establishing new LLGs and wards.
On the Kompiam-Ambum case, the coalition was of the view that “these processes and procedures were not followed”.
At the Wabag forum, “the more embarrassing and shocking discovery was that government officials (allegedly) involved in splitting, creating and making high schools as council wards claimed they had not seen the circular from the office of inter-government relations”.
Reiterating media statements by Provincial and Local-Level Government Affairs secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc in March, CCAC stated: “It is up to the PNG Electoral Commission to correct the common roll now riddled with ghost and duplicated names and names of underage children.”
Since 1992, the people of Kompiam-Ambum had experienced their fair share of general election-related problems, of which some are highlighted here:
*1992 – burning of ballot boxes;
*1997 – creating of new rest houses and inflated voter numbers;
*2002 – hijacking of ballot boxes; and
*2007 – redirecting helicopter and hijacking of ballot boxes.
Government officials had, since 1992, reported widespread ballot rigging and ballot box hijackings in the Kompiam-Ambum electorate.
The CCAC statement expressed hope that the issues and concerns raised by the Kompiam-Ambum experience could be addressed elsewhere to avoid election-related fraud and corruption.
“Only then can true development finds root among our people,” it said.
Using the Kompiam-Ambum example, the Community Coalition Against Corruption said the following were necessary:
*There are no special circumstances that qualify the establishment of a new LLG, splitting of existing council wards and creation of new council wards;
*The processes and procedures for establishing new LLGs and wards had not been met;
*Establishment of new LLG, splitting of existing council wards and creating of new council wards be considered after the 2011 national population census;
*Establishment of new LLG, splitting of existing council wards and establishing of new council wards should be put on halt until after next year’s general election; and
*For Kompiam-Ambum district, the existing 76 council wards should be used for the 2012 general election.