Monday, February 27, 2012

State may defer poll


THE government is considering postponing the 2012 general election by at least six months to ensure the common roll update is completed, deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah said, The National reports.
 It will also allow election officials time to put in place a bio-metric voting system to ensure a fair and just election.
Namah told a media conference yesterday that Enga Governor Peter Ipatas, Madang regional MP Sir Arnold Amet and Western Highlands Governor Tom Olga had accepted that the electoral roll was incomplete.
“There will be a failed election and the government will take a position on the deferral. We will introduce a bio-metric system using electronic voting to save costs,” he said.
It will take up to six months to have the electronic system in place and the government, through parliament, will decide on March 20, when parliament resumes.
“Now we will have to make wider consultations to seek views of all stakeholders on the next course of action – to delay the election or not,” Namah said.
Parliament last Friday dedicated the session to debating a statement to the House on the preparation for the general election presented by the leader of government business, Moses Maladina.
The government questioned the report by Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen on the election preparation that the electoral roll “is about 60% complete, meaning 2.4 million of PNG’s four million adults are eligible voters”.
Maladina told parliament that 40% of the common roll update was incomplete for the highlands provinces, especially the new Jiwaka province, Enga and Western Highlands.
“I have since received independent reports that this is not correct,” Maladina said.
“Yesterday afternoon (Thursday) the electoral commissioner admitted that there were some ‘pockets’ within the regions (Southern, New Guinea Islands and Momase) which were incomplete.”
Maladina said he had received independent reports that electoral rolls for the nation’s 89 open electorates had not been returned to many electorates.
In response to the report, tabled in parliament but not yet available to the public, Maladina gave a six-month approximate deadline for the introduction of bio-metric technology.
It identifies people through a characteristic unique to them, such as fingerprint. The system had been considered by the government of Sir Michael Somare following allegations of voter fraud in the 2007 election.
“This government has now re-engaged with the Indian government and entered into an agreement with the Indian Unique Identification Authority to establish a bio-metric identification scheme in PNG,” he said.
“On current estimates, it will take at least six months for a bio-metric system to be put in place.”
Former attorney-general Sir Arnold told the chamber he would consider supporting a temporary suspension of the election if it meant that they would be free and fair.
Sir Arnold said he would be supporting a bi-partisan push to suspend the election.
“Forty per cent (unregistered voters) at this point is grossly unacceptable,” he said.
“It may be in the nation’s interest that the election be deferred for an appointed time.

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