Friday, April 13, 2012

Security warning for PNG poll

Sydney Morning Herald

THE federal government has been urged to arrange a regional security force, backed by a US Navy helicopter carrier, to secure the peace during Papua New Guinea's coming elections.

"We should expect the elections to be violent" ... a man demands suffrage as thousands of Papua New Guineans protest against the government's plan to delay national elections during a rally in Port Moresby on April 10, 2012. Photo: AFP

The elections, due on June 23 at the end of the Parliament's five-year term, are seen as a critical moment, with the politicians of the 1975 independence era retiring and a $15 billion liquefied natural gas project coming on stream in 2015, delivering huge revenue flows to the government.
''PNG faces generation change at the same time as the biggest resources boom in its history,'' the Gillard government's parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, told a conference at Deakin University, in Geelong. ''This is why the next elections are so important and why it is so important that they happen on time.''
Scott Flower of Melbourne University has seen campaigning already under way in the violent highlands provinces in January, with money and home-made shotguns flourishing openly.
With the police diverted by states of emergency declared in two provinces last week, and the defence force down to 2000 soldiers, he doubted security resources available inside PNG were up to preventing violence, intimidation and ballot hijacking.
''I really think they will be overwhelmed,'' he said.
Dr Flower suggested Australia urgently consider organising a regional security force, possibly with helicopter support from a US Navy carrier, for the duration of the elections.
Because of local sensitivities about Australia, particularly after the earlier warning by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, of sanctions if elections were not held, Dr Flower suggested a broad regional composition, a time limit to prevent it being seen as a Solomon Islands-type of long-term intervention, and personnel coming under a joint panel of PNG and Commonwealth judges in case of any legal problems.
Nicole Haley, a specialist on Melanesia at the Australian National University, said the impending election was shaping up as worse than the malpractice-ridden 2007 elections.
''There is every indication that the level of malpractice will increase in 2012, not least because the stakes are higher due to the LNG project,'' she said.
With just over two months left before the vote, it would not be possible to remedy the flaws.
''In the weeks and months remaining it will not be possible to produce brand new rolls, nor to undo the messages deriving from the 2007 experience, nor to depoliticise the military,'' Dr Haley said.
''Based on the current situation, we should expect the elections to be violent, we should expect them to be marred by fraud and malpractice on a scale never before seen and we should expect the security personnel to be both partisan and politicised.''

No comments:

Post a Comment