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Two PNG Electoral Commission officers have been charged with marking ballot papers for their preferred candidate and stuffing them into ballot boxes in a remote area of the Komo-Margarima electorate in Hela.
Provincial police commander Superintendent Michael Welly claimed: “The presiding officer and his assistant presiding officer had given K10,000 (US$3,111) to leaders and voters there as bribe and went ahead with their business of marking the papers themselves at a polling booth at Hirupaia Awi Lagau local level government area last week”.
Welly said after completing polling in that area, they got on a helicopter with the ballot boxes and arrived at Tari Airport on Friday.
“However, the Security Forces waited for them at the airport after getting tip-offs from the scrutineers.
“They then arrested them and brought them to the Tari police station where they were charged under Criminal Code Act section 110 (1)”.
Welly said the pair were detained and were expected to appear in the Tari District Court this week.
Meanwhile, the electoral commission will investigate an incident involving marking of ballot papers in six boxes at the Singirok Barracks in Jiwaka.
Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato told a media conference that marking ballot papers out of the voting process was inappropriate.
“I have seen the video footage and I must admit that marking of ballot papers outside the process is inappropriate and not democratic,” Gamato said.
“This marking of ballot papers involves six boxes including Kendu and Kendu 1, Tolu 1 and 2 and Bolba 1 and 2,” Gamato said
The video footage showed ballot papers in Jiwaka being marked and it has gone viral on social media.
“Let me say that Singirok barracks is a gazetted place for polling,” Gamato said.
“There is no problem with that, but the manner in which the marking of ballot papers outside the process was done is not correct.
“It breaches the electoral laws and process, so my decision is to direct the returning officer through the election manager to set those boxes aside as disputed boxes.
“I will direct a thorough investigation into this incident to find out who was involved in making that decision to hijack this electoral process, and based on their findings make a decision at a later date.”.
SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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