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Papua New Guinea is ready to kick start the 2017 National General Election today with key Government agencies positioned for the two-month polls operations.
Governor-General Bob Dadae and PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato officially started the ball rolling by signing of the 111 writs at Government House. More than 1000 out of 4000 candidates, among them Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, are scheduled to nominate today and tomorrow before the closing date next Thursday, April 27.
About 40,000 temporary election workers have been engaged nationwide, most of them public servants.
More than 10,600 security personnel are on standby for “pre-deployment” operation, which will start on May 1, but all 22 provincial police stations start their operations this morning.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki, PNG Defence Force commander Brigadier-General Gilbert Toropo and Correctional Services Commissioner Michael Waipo, said their men and women are ready for election duties.
A total of K10 million (US$3.1 million) of the earmarked K221 million (US$69.5 million) has been received as the election operations start.
Baki said that the normal provincial police force will maintain security operations starting today until May 1, when a special unit will be deployed to the Highlands region, as well as Bougainville and parts of New Guinea Islands, Momase and Southern regions.
He said security would be boosted in high risk areas, warning of unethical behaviour from his police personnel, as well as from the public.
“The training and guide handbook that all election operating officers have, will ensure unethical conduct and security threatening instances, such as the presence of guns, will not be tolerated,” Baki said.
“We also have an election investigation team that has been identified and will be deployed discreetly to all polling areas to monitor threat levels, and isolate which candidates are using malicious tactics during the election process.”
Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, confirmed that the national election writs will be issued this morning, and nominations open immediately after the ceremony at all the designated venues for nominations throughout PNG.
In the nation’s capital, nominations will be accepted at NCD electoral office at Turumu Street, Boroko, for NCD Provincial seat and Moresby Northwest Open electorate; Jack Pidik Park, Five-Mile for nominations for Moresby Northeast Open electorate; and Sir Hubert Murray Stadium, Kondedobu, for nominations for Moresby South Open electorate.
Gamato said that the total number of Form 11 issued for the 2017 election was 850,000, the crude projection for eligible voters now stands at about 5.5 million people, but only about 4.1 million voters will come forward and vote in the 2017 national election.
The total number of ballot papers available for use in the 2017 national election is 10 million – five million ballot papers for the Provincial seats and five million for Open seats. “We will issue ballot papers according to the number of eligible voters on the enrolment figure,” Gamato added.
“Any extra ballot papers will be cancelled before they are dispatched to provinces. We also have generic ballot papers available for special cases, but these generic ballot papers will be issued only under the authority of the electoral commissioner.”.
Meanwhile, election laws must be complied with, says Lae police commander Chief Superintendent Anthony Wgambie Jr .
“It has been a norm for candidates to go for nomination with their supporters in droves. I appeal for understanding and maturity amongst candidates and their supporters. Everyone who is eligible to stand for public office has the rights to nominate. This must be done peacefully and in an orderly manner,” Wagambie said.
Wagambie said Lae police is in the process implementing a strategic policing method that will cater for the election and will continue after that to be announced in the coming days.
“Everyday laws remain the same. That is, traffic rules and other regulations must be complied with. Supporters must be controlled. They must not intimidate others and cause problems. Vehicle convoys must be orderly and not disrupt other daily activities of the public,” he said.
Wagambie appealed to all intending candidates and their supporters to go through this process without inconveniencing the public and candidates.
He said police will also be carrying out awareness during the lead up to casting of votes to see that people are not lured or suppressed from exercising their rights to vote respectively and to remain neutral allowing the election process to be peaceful, transparent and fair.
“To the people of Lae, the power to elect is with you. Think of what you want your future is to be like, not of what you have to enjoy for a day or two. The next five years is in your hands. This is not a time to play around, as you will be at the receiving end of what will transpire at the end of the elections and the type of leader you place in parliament to represent you and deliver services,” Wagambie said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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