Tears of anger

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A WOMAN was in tears at a polling station in Wewak, East Sepik, yesterday after she was disallowed from casting her vote as her name was not in the common roll.
Disappointed Dorcas Kopandu said: “I am crying in public because I cannot find my name. Why is this? I already have my choice of candidates for Wewak Open and the provincial seat. But I cannot cast my vote now. I have been voting for years.”
East Sepik Governor Allan Bird also said last night some ballot boxes were damaged by frustrated people who were not allowed to vote.
Kopandu was one of the thousands of voters around the country who were turned away by polling officials because the common roll did not have their names.
Kopandu, who last year was one of those who accompanied government officials “going door-to-door” to update people’s data during a national census exercise, was shocked when her name and others were missing.
She searched in vain through the roll for her maiden name, and husband’s surname.
“Last year, I actually helped officials to update the data.
“We went door to door as I knew everybody in my (Old Airstrip) area,” she said.
“This morning (yesterday) I visited the polling site twice to ensure I can cast my vote.
“Polling started after noon.
“But when I went through the list, I couldn’t find my name.”
Alex Amos, who also could not cast his vote, described the General Election 2022 as an “unfair one”.
“I have not been able to exercise my constitutional rights in two general elections,” he said.
Gabriel Amos, who also could not find his name, said it was outrageous and unbelievable.
“We can’t find our names. It’s our right to vote,” Gabriel said.
Electoral Commission (EC) officials in Wewak, when approached for a comment, said there was nothing much they could do.
They explained that they were not allowed to use the supplementary rolls to allow those whose names were missing on the main roll to vote.
Bird said last night his “worst fears are now realised”, after ballot boxes in Yamil, Maprik and Boiken were damaged.
“I again call on the Electoral Commissioner to allow all eligible voters in ESP to vote,” he said.
“The failure by the EC to honour the rights of voters has now resulted in the worst possible outcome.”
He urged the people not to destroy any more ballot boxes as it could result in a “failed election”.
“I have requested provincial administrator Samson Torovi to urgently convene a meeting with the EC to allow all eligible voters in ESP to vote,” he said.
Meanwhile, observers during the General Election 2017, in particular the Commonwealth Observer Group, had recommended that the EC “conduct an urgent review and lessons learned processed immediately after this (2017) election, and improve the accuracy of the electoral roll.
“This process should be carried out with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with other development partners of PNG”.
“The Government should ensure a timely release of funding to the EC to enable a thorough process of updating the electoral roll.”