Thugs attack polling officials

National, Normal

The National, Thursday July 18th, 2013


ELECTION officials were attacked and four ballot boxes for the Mul sub-district in Western Highlands were destroyed at a roadblock yesterday, police said.

Provincial police commander Martin Lakari said armed thugs set up a roadblock and attacked the officials and destroyed ballot papers and boxes while on their way to Mul for polling yesterday morning.

He said the boxes and papers destroyed were for wards 3, 4, 6 and 9.

Lakari said other polling officials travelling to Mul for polling turned back after seeing the first vehicle being attacked.

He said that several polling officials were seriously injured.

Lakari said police intervened and arrested two suspects at the roadblock and they are being held at the Mt Hagen police station, and refused bail.

He said because of that incident, polling was suspended yesterday and the election manager would decide whether to conduct polling.

Lakari, who is on the election steering committee, said the penalty for destroying ballot papers or boxes was severe.

“I want to appeal to the candidates and their supporters to respect the people when deciding their leaders.”

He said setting up roadblocks, attacking polling officials and destroying ballot papers were criminal acts.

Lakari said that generally, polling in other districts in the province progressed smoothly.

Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen appealed to the people to take ownership of the 2013 LLG elections and ensured they were conducted freely, fairly and peacefully.

“Such actions by hooligans will not help anyone and are not in the true spirit of a democratic election process,” he said.

“In Papua New Guinea, the Constitution gives the right to every voting-age citizen to exercise their rights to participate in the democratic process of choosing our leaders without being harassed or intimated by anyone, be it a candidate or supporters of a candidate or spouse or family member.”