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PNG voting marred by violence
09:32 am GMT+12, 25/06/2012, Papua New Guinea

Violence and hijacked ballot boxes have marred the second day of voting in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Election observers say three ballot boxes were destroyed by angry voters in the resource-rich Hela province in the PNG Highlands, while another two were hijacked by supporters of candidates.

After about five hours, the hijacked boxes were handed over to returning officers and were filled with completed ballot papers.

There has also been an unconfirmed report that a man was killed in the village of Kelabo on Saturday after he photographed voting at a polling booth.

One election observer who declined to be named said it was initially feared the dead man was part of the Domestic Election Observer team, however it has since been confirmed he was not.

Police say they have yet to confirm the death.

“My view is that the elections are currently progressing well,” said Wamu Walu, the returning officer for the Kelabo region in Hela province, where four houses were set on fire during Saturday's polling.

“We have encountered some minor problems on the ground, like minor tampering of ballot boxes.

“Most of the ballot boxes have been locked up at the rural police station here in (the village of) Koriba.”
Police are out in force in Tari, the ramshackle central hub in Hela province.

However, security is lax in outlying areas, where sometimes just two unarmed police are left to provide protection for polling officials.

At one polling booth in Tari, officials and police have been trying to organise voters without an electoral roll.
Police and military officers this morning reportedly used tear gas to control voters who were angry at the lack of a roll.

When AAP went to the booth, some heavily armed police officers were using heavy sticks to control the crowd.

Polling was extended an extra day in Hela and the southern Highlands on Saturday after many polling stations failed to open on time.

“In a nutshell, we have not been prepared for this election,” said William Bando, provincial administrator for Hela province.

“The ballot papers arrived late, the training kits (for electoral officers) arrived late. They had to run training in the night and then polling was the next day.”

In 2002 elections in parts of the Highlands were declared failed after more than 100 people were killed in clashes.

Over the next two weeks, more than four million Papua New Guineans are expected to vote at more than 10,000 polling stations, many located in rugged and sometimes impassable terrain.

More than 3,300 candidates are standing in the 111 seats that make up PNG's parliament.


SOURCE: AAP/PACNEWS


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