12 milion PNG ballot papers for distribution

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Papua New Guinea Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai says 12 million ballot papers will be distributed in the provinces before polling begins on 04 July.

“The distribution of ballot papers will be supervised by the police and the defence force, working with the Australian Defence Force (ADF),” he said.

“So we will have teams from each (force) accompanying the papers for safety purposes.”

There are six million ballot papers for the open seats and six million for the provincial seats.

It is expected that 5.7 million voters will cast their votes, based on the latest common roll update.

One flight left on Saturday to start the ballot paper distribution by the ADF and PNG security forces.

Sinai witnessed the first batch departing for Western on Saturday from the Jackson Airport, saying it marked the start of the General Election 2022.

He acknowledged the ongoing support of the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments in the running of the election operations.

He specifically thanked the ADF and Canberra for supplying the ballot papers.

“Thank you for also supporting the logistics and transportation of the materials to the provinces including ballot papers,” he said.

He said that with nominations completed, everyone should be ready.

Election managers have been briefed and are waiting for the ballot papers, election materials and polling schedules.

“We wish all the candidates all the luck during polling. We are trying all our best to deliver a safe and fair election,” he said.

Sinai said Electoral Commission lawyers are currently working with court officials to identify General Election 2022 candidates who have been convicted of a crime and should withdraw their names.

“Some might think that this is a straight forward process where we remove the convicts,” he told a radio talkback show.

“But we must get the information straight from the court house.

“People have been nominated already so this also concerns their rights to contest.

“We must have a good reason to remove them. But we must get the evidence first.”

The Supreme Court had ruled on 31 May that persons convicted of any offence and sentenced to more than nine months in jail since 25 June, 2002 are disqualified for life from contesting general elections.

The Attorney-General through the office of the Solicitor-General, referred various questions and an application seeking the court’s opinion on the meaning and effect of s.103 (3) (e), which was inserted in the Constitution in 2002 in a constitutional amendment.

Sinai explained that the Supreme Court’s decision was given after nominations had closed.

“We had identified the relevant agencies such as the court house, public prosecutor, police crimes unit, attorney-general, and the parole board.

“Our lawyers are working with the courts,” Sinai said.

Sinai said the first step he took was to issue a seven-day notice to candidates convicted of a crime to voluntarily withdraw their nomination.

The seven-day notice ended on Friday.

So far, no candidate has withdrawn their nomination.

Meanwhile, general Election 2022 (GE22) polling dates are set by the Electoral Commission (EC) in consultation with the police, Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force and the Correctional Services, and not by political parties, Prime Minister Jame Marape says.

“The polling dates had nothing to do with political parties or Pangu Pati,” he said.

“This is something that only the Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai can decide on. At the end of the day it is not about me or (former prime minister Peter) O’Neill, or Pangu Pati and PNC (People’s National Congress).

“The decision was with security reasons to ensure that there is a safe environment for the people to cast their ballots, for extraction after polling, for counting, etc.

“But the call is with the commissioner, if he has decided on it, then I welcome the decision.”

Marape was responding to Ialibu-Pangia MP O’Neill who raised concerns about the polling dates the EC had set for the Highlands.

O’Neil said that the new polling dates were geared towards helping Pangu Parti receiving an unfair advantage and made no sense in the conduct of a fair and free election.

“To have polling first in Hela and Enga while the rest of Highlands wait for four days will certainly encourage foul play and double voting as people move freely between provinces to vote multiple times,” he said.

“This has been a common practice from the past elections and EC has not learnt from past mistakes,” O’Neil said.

“When the security forces are fresh and ready, elections in Hela, Southern Highlands and Enga should be conducted on the same day.

“These are the most difficult provinces and EC should conduct polling on the same day to avoid double voting and possibility of violence,” he said.

SOURCE: THE NATIONAL/PACNEWS