Peaceful election a myth

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday July 9th, 2012

WE, at this newspaper, do admit now to perpetrating a myth; the myth that this is a peaceful election.
It certainly started out as if it was going to be peaceful but it is not any more.
It is as wretched any other one of them.
Let us not mince words or try to justify our earlier misconception.
We really do not have any accurate records of just how violent past elections might have been to compare this one against.
What is a peaceful election anyway?
At what point on the numbers ladder of those dead do we shift from peaceful to violence – one, 10, 100 – how many?
We cannot. One killing is already too much violence.
An election presiding officer is dead and another seriously hurt after they were attacked in Kandep district, Enga province, on Saturday.
Dead is John Kepa, 57, from Longap village. Daniel Arup, 50, from Malai village, is in serious condition at Wabag Hospital from the bush knife attack.
They join a man and his wife from the same Kandep district who were slain and their bodies dumped in a river. A young man from the area was chopped up metres from the police station in Enga provincial headquarters in Wabag.
Others from Kompiam-Ambum have been reportedly attacked and killed or maimed.
Killings have happened in Southern Highlands, in the new Hela and Jiwaka provinces and in Chimbu.
Those are the deaths that have been reported to the security forces which we know about.
How many other deaths or fights or injuries sustained from election-related conflicts are there in the mountainous terrains that we do not know about?
How much damage in property or community peace and harmonious relationship has this election severed?
There really is no measure of it.
Candidates themselves have been caught dishing out cash or harbouring caches of weapons or heading into violent clashes at the head of their violent bunch. That is leadership alright but it belongs right there on the tribal battlefield, not on the floor of parliament.
One needs more than cash or a spear to sway the Japanese prime minister to agree to the next aid package for PNG.
A faulty common roll has provided an excellent ruse for those who were hell-bent on cheating so they have done their dirty deeds without the harsh glare of public scrutiny being brought to bear on them.
Yes, the election started off low key and quite peacefully that it shocked many people who had expected this election to start off with a literal bang – in the bad sense.
As the elections progressed, the violence tempo has increased until the level of destructiveness and disruptiveness equals any before it.
When counting is over and the results are in, it will not be the new line-up of members of parliament that draw our attention the most.
Only Sir Michael Somare has come out condemning outright what is going on.
It was he who urged public servants to live by their oath to serve the Constitution and the people and to not fall into the temptation of squandering their children’s future for a few kina today.
For the rest, the thundering silence seems to bespeak condoning of the flagrant abuse and violation of the laws of the land.
The next parliament has its job cut out for it. It must identify the faults that lie within the electoral process.
It must design ways to ensure the common roll is not an issue, not a year before the next election but immediately after this election.
Massive voter education must begin in 2013 or in early 2017 covering the by-laws, the leadership code, the role of representative government and a leaders’ role in parliament.
Rules must be devised to ensure there is a comprehensive screening process for all who aspire to become leaders. Everyone who wants to be something has to pass through some test, examination, screening or interview process.
How is it that entry into the highest office in the land has no such screening and that any man and his dog, who has K1,000 and a big tribe, is eligible?
And, of course, the entire Electoral Commission office will have to be revamped.
It is too late now to cry over spilt milk. The damage is done.
Time to look ahead and to ensure this mess is never repeated.