By ISAAC NICHOLAS
RE-POLLING for three areas in the Kandep by-election starts today, Electoral Commissioner (EC) Andrew Trawen said yesterday.
Mr Trawen, who held a joint press conference with Police Commissioner Gari Baki, said police and polling officials began moving from Goroka to Mt Hagen last night and would be airlifted by helicopter to the three areas that missed out on polling early this morning.
He said he had given directions to returning officer Poevare Torre that polling for Muyen, Tarapis and Sawi No.2 should proceed immediately.
He said counting would be delayed until polling in the remaining three areas was completed.
It is believed that returning officer Mr Torre will be replaced by Simon Simoi, election manager for Morobe, who will be in charge of the counting in Goroka.
Mr Trawen said two of his officers, who were dropped off yesterday to assess the security situation, had given the green light, saying that people from the three areas would be there to receive the polling teams.
Mr Trawen said complaining by polling officials was aggravating the situation and causing anxiety, besides directly undermining lawful directions.
He said polling officers had been directed to return to Kandep to conduct polling and their complaints are unethical.
Mr Baki said there was no defiance of orders in the Constabulary.
He said election violence was not something new and police had experienced it in past elections in that part of the country.
“We are prepared. I have given instructions for police to back the Electoral Commission to conduct polling. We will be on the ground.”
Mr Baki said the deployment of police was not to create enemies but to ensure peace and it was becoming common in the Highlands for armed police going into elections.
Mr Trawen said he had also written to provincial administrators to extend the leave of public servants involved in the by-elections.
He said records showed that the polling place of Muyen had the same problem in the 2007 elections where the ballot box which contained 476 votes was completely destroyed.
He said that Wasa (Sawi No.2) had 384 ballot boxes issued to it and allegations regarding stuffing of ballot papers were proved in court, saying he could not allow any of this to be repeated.
“My direction for polling in the affected three areas of Muyen, Tarapis and Sawi No.2 is a lawful directive and so is my decision to change the counting venue from Kandep to Goroka.
“There is no legal basis for the leaders of Eastern Highlands and Enga to be up in arms against my decision to move the counting venue as this was done for the best interest of securing the votes for the people of Kandep.
“This is one country and there is no issue of jurisdiction as to where in PNG the ballot papers can be counted … to oppose or prevent the counting of votes can amount to breaches and violations of guaranteed constitutional rights and leaders who are subject to the Constitution by the very office they hold should be wary of this,” he said.