Power taken away from ROs

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RETURNING officers (RO) will no longer have the powers to dispute ballot boxes in this year’s general election, says Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai.
Sinai told The National yesterday that the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission had removed some of the powers of returning officers.
“There have been so many issues identified in the past election due to the commission giving our returning officers too much power,” he said.
“So the commission will now retain some powers to avoid too many issues in this year’s election.
“The office of the electoral commissioner will be the only one who disputes ballot boxes.
“Ballot boxes will only be disputed after a full report is given to us, the RO will have to justify why a ballot box is been disputed.”
Sinai said this was because there were many unethical practices that had been normalised.
“For example, in part of the country, a box may be disputed because of underage voting, where as in another part of the country, underage voting is part of the norm and will not be disputed,” he said.
“This is why ballot boxes will only be disputed after approval is received from the commission and not by the returning officer as we want to deliver a free and fair election.”
Meanwhile, Sinai called on candidates and parties to be mindful of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) safety measures during the nomination and campaign period.

Schools urged to avoid election trouble
Students from Catholic agency Det Junior High School in Nipa-Kutubu, Southern Highlands, at a morning assembly. Teachers have been told to be neutral and focus on their teaching during the general election. – Picture supplied

TEACHERS at Catholic agency schools in Southern Highlands and Hela have been told not to take part in any election-related activities that would have serious consequences in the future.
Catholic schools secretary Daniel Beli said he had warned teachers during his visits to schools to concentrate on teaching and be present for the polling only.
He said election in the Highlands sometimes became violent, resulting in family separations, conflict with tribes and communities and these could affect schools they were teaching at.
Beli said there had been past reports of teachers skipping classes or being absent that affected students learning and he wanted school boards of management to communicate with their teachers not to take part in election-related activities.
“Whoever candidate wins is our elected MP, we must stay focused on our teaching profession,” he said.
“It is a sessional thing and our profession must be taken into consideration.
“Teachers must understand that we place a strong emphasis on teaching fundamental skills to improve the quality of learning and teaching and nourishing our students physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.”

Dual citizens ineligible to contest elections: Sinai

INDIVIDUALS with dual citizenship are not eligible to contest this year’s general election, Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai says.
Sinai said all candidates who wished to nominate needed to have exclusively Papua New Guinean citizenship, be at least 25 years old born in the electorate they wish to run for, or lived there for the last two years or a total of five years at any time.
Meanwhile, he said anyone caught destroying, defacing or forging a nomination paper would be arrested and charged and face up to two years imprisonment.
“With nominations set to begin tomorrow (today) at 8am, I call on all candidates, their supporters, voters, electoral officials and the public to adhere to and abide by the electoral laws and regulations and to not take part in illegal practices and electoral offences during nomination,” he said.
“Ensuring the integrity and credibility of the elections is the responsibility of all electoral stakeholders, not just of the PNG Electoral Commission.”
Sinai said all electoral stakeholders, especially the political parties, candidates, and their scrutineers and supporters, played a critical role in making elections free, fair and peaceful.
“Let’s all work together, take ownership of this election and work to deliver the kind of election that our people deserve, one that is free and fair.”

Province to impose liquor ban over election period, police say

THERE will be total liquor ban in Eastern Highlands during the election period, says provincial police commander Superintendent Michael Welly.
Welly said necessary preparations for the ban were underway between the Eastern Highlands government, provincial liquor licensing office and the police.
He said police expected liquor dealers to cooperate with authorities because people wanted to see a smooth election process.
“There is not much time left for the election, the people would like to see their representatives elected on time to represent them in the 11th Parliament,” he said.
“In order to ensure smooth flow of the election process, we will impose a total liquor ban in the eight districts of Eastern Highlands.”
Welly also pointed out that liquor had been singled out as a major contributor to law and order problems.
He said therefore, during the election, liquor trading and consumption would be banned.
Welly, however, expressed fear for the production and sale of cheap liquor with high alcohol content.
He called on members of the public to report those involved in selling and consuming such alcohol and police would deal with them.
Welly, however, said beverages could be served in licensed hotels.