‘No illegal army in Hela’

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PRIME Minister James Marape says there is no illegal army in Hela as reported in the media about two weeks ago.
Marape said this yesterday in Port Moresby after returning from casting his vote in his Tari-Pori electorate.
“In Hela there is no illegal army or all this sort of thing,” he said.
“Some of you newspapers in the business of the news seem to be making reference to illegal armies and all these sort of thing,” the 51-year-old said of an unsubstantiated front page story in the other daily on Fri, June 24.
“There is no illegal army up there.
“If there was an illegal army up there police would not have apprehended this person who was transporting the money,” he said referring to the director of Ipwenz Construction, a local construction company, that transported a large sum of money into the province and was arrested over the weekend by police.
Marape said the only security forces on the ground in Hela were police and the PNG Defence Force deployed for the General Election 2022 (GE22).
“I just want to appreciate the work of police and soldiers across the country.
“After the election polling in Hela the team (security forces) that will be assisting Enga province will be migrating to Enga.
“We hope to clear out Hela by the end of this week if everything goes to plan so then police go to rest of the Highlands.”
Marape said the campaign and polling in Hela had been incident-free despite tensions.
He said he hoped that it was the same throughout the country.
Marape said if he remained Prime Minister in the next term of Parliament he would dedicate more resources to improving law and order in the country.

Polling in ENB crowded but peaceful

PEOPLE in Rabaul, East New Britain, crowded polling sites as voting in the province got underway yesterday.
Rabaul returning officer (RO) Babel Umri said the 18 polling teams were dispatched to the polling venues in the Kombiu, Balanataman, Watom and Rabaul Urban local level governments (LLGs) as per the gazetted polling schedule.
He said most of the teams were dispatched with limited election materials and presiding officers were forced to spend from their own pockets while the treasury office worked to fast track payments.
These election materials include ballot papers both for the Rabaul open and provincial seats, electoral rolls, voting compartments, metal seals, inedible ink, candidate posters, and journals for presiding officers and other necessary stationery.
Umri said many voters were complaining about their names missing from the common roll however they were told by presiding officers and assistant returning officers that it was beyond their control and by law anyone whose name was not on the common roll was not eligible to vote.
Also witnessed at the polling venues yesterday was the setup of two separate lanes for women and men, which was a first for the election.
Most women who cast their votes yesterday reported that in the past they had been denied their rights to vote and subject to intimidation and the introduction of election express lanes was a good initiative by the Electoral Commission.
Umri was optimistic that polling for Rabaul would be completed this week.

Relay accurate information, TIPNG says

THE provision of timely, accurate and accessible information during polling period is critical to ensuring a democratically credible General Election 2022 (GE22), according to Transparency International Papua New Guinea (TIPNG).
A statement from the organisation said the delivery of election had faced multiple administrative, legal logistical challengers and it was now incumbent on the Electoral Commission (EC) and partners to ensure clear and consistent communications to voters.
TIPNG made this statement after it sent 300 of its volunteer observers across the country to observe the polling.
“Voters are justifiably concerned that the disjointed manner in which requisite electoral preparatory processes such as, creation of new electorates, enrolment of new voters, updating of roll, appointment of nomination, and gazettal of election and polling schedules were delivered in turn adversely impact the conduct of polling,” TIPNG board chairman Peter Aitsi said.
“Those across the country who have volunteered with TIPNG observe the conduct of their local polling station, are demonstrating not only that people in Papua New Guinea are concerned, more importantly, they are showing that Papua New Guineans want to contribute to more free, fair and safe election in 2022.
TIPNG had observed GE07, GE12, and GE17 using the same observer survey instruments and also the 2013 LLG Elections, 2019 Bougainville Referendum and 2021 Moresby North-west by-election.
TIPNG said the reports from those observations have been presented to the EC and the Government which it said led to reforms such as the introduction of the limited preferential voting system and the Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates.

Returning officer raises concerns over Kavieng’s extra ballot papers

KAVIENG open candidates have expressed concern about the alleged number of extra ballot papers found during quality checks over the weekend.
New Ireland returning officer Benjamin Kliawi said despite these grievances polling in the province started yesterday. He denied claims of the inconsistency after confirming with scrutineers that the physical numbers of ballot papers corresponded with numbers on the dispatching list.
“The claims of discrepancies in ballot paper numbers need to have evidence to prove to the Electoral Commission,” he said.
Meanwhile, New Ireland police commander Felix Nebanat said candidates and scrutineers had presented a written petition regarding the inconsistency of the ballot papers.
Nebanat said the petition was signed by nine candidates requesting Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai to explain why the ballot papers in the electorate were not adding up and to stop the deployment of polling teams.
“My role and responsibility is to protect the integrity of the
election process by maintaining a neutral position and to ensure
a free, fair and safe election,” he said.
However, Kliawi said polling in Kavieng started later than its scheduled time.