Man dead in election violence

Main Stories, National

The National, Friday July 19th, 2013


A MAN has been reported dead and properties destroyed following a fight on Wednesday at Embi ward 1 in the Nembi-Pletau local level government, Nipa-Kutubu district, Southern Highlands.

The deceased, who was a supporter of a candidate, was allegedly shot by a son of the former councillor and died instantly.

The shooting took place after a scrutineer signalled the former councillor that the new candidate had received more votes.

Hundreds of voters at the polling arena fled for their lives while the relatives of the deceased retaliated and torched homes and trade stores worth thousands of kina.

Mathias Arikapu, a local from the area and teacher at Nipa Secondary School, said tension was high and leaders from both parties were working yesterday to calm the situation.

“I am not sure if both parties will cool down as tension is mounting and people have blocked the roads with logs and stones,” he said.

Arikapu said other council wards in the Nembi-Pletau LLG had minor issues such as assaulting of scrutineers, kicking of ballot boxes by supporters and quarrels and fist fights.

“While the incident was still going on, I was picked up by the principal of Nipa Secondary and went to Mendi for the school business but had to turn back as the bank and business houses were closed after a clash in the town over the mayor’s seat.”

Thousands of people who packed Mendi to conduct their daily business ran for their lives after flying missiles rained down from all directions.

Police intervened quickly and dispersed the crowds, while business houses closed their doors for the day.

Steward Tawa, a presidential candidate for the Ialibu Basin LLG, said the Electoral Commission should have funded security personnel for a peaceful election.

“The Government underestimated this LLG election,” Tawa said. 

“The election was just like the national elections and failure to provide security has led to many ballot boxes being disputed and destroyed.” 

He said provinces where violence was known during elections should have been properly funded so that there was security personnel in polling areas to calm such situations.

Attempts to reach police and the provincial election manager were unsuccessful.