Issue of writs on 12 May: PNG Electoral Commissioner Sinai

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The writs for this year’s general election will be issued on 12 May, says Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai.

He told The National that the issuing of writs originally planned for Thursday 28 April, had to be moved for various reasons including the impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic which made it impossible for the commission to update the common roll.

“The late disbursement of funds from Treasury in November 2021 and the crash of the IFMS system in the Finance Department also made it impossible for us to carry out our duties,” he said.

“Also the creation of the new seven electorates by Parliament in March made it impossible for us to keep to the tentative date we set earlier, as we also have to print new ballot papers for the new electorates.

“This will require between one and two weeks. And we have sought the endorsement of the Governor-General who has approved 12 May, 2022 for the issue of writs,” he said.

He said the general election would be conducted within the prescribed time as provided for in the Constitution.

Sinai said the focus now would be on finalising the electoral roll and have it released for public scrutiny before the final roll was released.

“We will also be announcing the appointment of returning officers for all open electorates before the writs are issued, as the writs will be issued under their names,” he said.

“They will in turn appoint election officials in their respective electorates to assist with the conduct of elections on the ground,” he said.

Sinai said the slight change in the dates would not affect overall preparations and election schedule.

Former Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato said the deferral of the date for the issuing of writs is within the constitutional timeframe.

Gamato told The National it must however not go past the fifth anniversary of when the 10th Parliament was sworn in 2017.

Gamato said Section 105 of the Constitution required that a general election should be held within the three-month period before the fifth anniversary of the day of the return of writs in the 2017 general election.

The Electoral Commission announced Tuesday that a total of 118 writs will be issued.

“The 22 writs will be issued for the provincial electorates which include the National Capital District and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville,” he said.

“Then 96 writs will be issued for the open electorates including the seven new electorates.”

Sinai clarified that the campaign period would not be affected.

“There will be eight weeks of campaigning starting after the one-week nomination period.

“Let me assure candidates that the campaigning period will not be changed, so you will have enough time to do your campaigns,” he said.

“Polling will be over two weeks for the Highlands, NCD and Morobe will have one day polling but not at the same time due to security planning.

“We have broken provinces into zones, three provinces in one zone.

“Teams will move from zone to zone to carry out one days polling in each province.

“And counting will start immediately after polling.”

Vanimo -Green MP Belden Namah said the postponement of the issuance of writs reflects how disorganised the government is.

“The elections should be on time.

“A deferral only shows that we have a government that is unprepared and not adhering to the normal processes of governance,” he said.

“This creation of seven new electorates has created confusion as it was not reflected in the 2022 budget.”

He told The National that when the Government and the Electoral Commission created the design of the new ballot papers, it never captured the seven new electorates.

“This is a government that is making decisions on an ad-hoc basis,” he said.

He said there was no proper common roll update and national census which was to have been conducted in 2021.

“They had the opportunity to get all these things right, but because they have not done so, they are now pushing everything back,” Namah said.

Meanwhile, Australia will reprint the ballot papers for areas infringed by the seven new electorates, says Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai.

Sinai told The National that because the seven electorates were only approved last month, they were not included in the ballot papers already printed by Australia.

“We will therefore have to destroy the ballot papers printed for Middle Fly, Kairuku-Hiri, Ijivitari, Talasea, Bulolo, Komo-Margarima and Laigap-Porgera,” he said.

“And we are now in the process of reprinting ballot papers for Delta Fly, Hiri-Koiari, Popondetta, Nakanai, Wau-Waria, Komo-Hulia and Porgera-Paiela.

“For example, Kairuku-Hiri ballots for this electorate was printed as Kairuku-Hiri before the new electorate was formed.

“Now it has been split into Kairuku and Hiri-Koiari.

“So new ballots have to be printed for Kairuku and for Hiri-Koiari.

“The same for Talasea, Nakanai and Popondetta.”

He said the common roll update will soon be completed.

Sinai told The National that common roll updates for most provinces had been completed.

“We only have 33 local level governments to complete in Morobe, East Sepik and Madang.

“Once completed, we will print them in the first week of May and send them to provinces for confirmation and checks.

“We are looking at a total of six million voters in this year’s election,” he said.

SOURCE: THE NATIONLA/PACNEWS