Source: The National, Wednesday June 27th, 2012

AFTER the reports in today’s paper, nobody will be left in any doubt as to the level of preparedness of the PNG Electoral Commission for the conduct of the 2012 elections.
The preparation has been flimsy and lacklustre.
From throughout the country for the past few days, we have been receiving reports about shortage of ballot papers, lack of polling officials, non-payment of allowances for polling officials and names not being on the common roll which point an accusing finger directly at the PNGEC.
These complaints, while important, fade to insignificance compared to the fiasco that unfolded in the National Capital District yesterday.
This is the city where the PNGEC headquarters is. This is where all the planning is done and ideas tested. This is where every polling booth is accessible by road, where mobilisation of officials and polling teams ought to be operating like clockwork.
Yet, it was here in Port Moresby that the elections basically failed.
Under perfect weather conditions – a clear but overcast sky which provided excellent shelter from the normal blazing sun – the polling teams did not deploy to one electorate – Moresby Northwest.
In Moresby Northeast and Moresby South, where they did deploy, they arrived as late at 11am and were still waiting past noon for ballot papers.
In Lae, polling was deferred to today because of rain early yesterday when part of the morning and all afternoon, the weather was fine. What stopped the polling teams from deploying? Again, bad timing.
It is shocking. It is embarrassing.
The whole episode gives the lie to all the assurances the PNGEC has given the country that it is prepared to deliver free, fair and safe elections on time.
It gives credibility to the cacophony of voices immediately before the issue of writs which pressed for the elections to be deferred by a number of months in order for discrepancies in the common roll and other election preparations to be completed.
Those voices, the loudest coming from parliament, wanted elections to be deferred by up to six months.
Indeed, a motion was passed by a majority in parliament to that effect.
There was a move at the 11th hour to remove Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen but that was thwarted.
This disgraceful conduct of the PNGEC flies in the face of its staunchest defender in government, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who fought his own cabinet, his governing coalition partners and parliament to stand resolutely for elections to be delivered on time and for Trawen to remain as its head.
The conduct also puts to shame the unwavering support the PNGEC received from decent, law abiding citizens and groups both here and abroad – including the governments of Australia, New Zealand and the United States – which supported elections to be delivered on the appointed date.
This newspaper supported that stance as well and we do not regret it one bit because the law does stipulate that writs for the next election must be issued not a day later than the fifth anniversary of the return of writs for the last election. That date fell due on Friday, April 27.
There had been enough manipulation of constitutional laws up to that time and we felt disinclined to support further such overtures while recognising the fact that election preparations were sloppy.
Despite this, the people have conducted themselves most honourably and that too emerged in NCD yesterday.
They slept hardly a wink on Monday night but there was hardly any disturbances in any of the suburbs – a most unusual thing for Port Moresby. They woke up early Tuesday and were walking peacefully in pairs or in family groups, not in busloads as in the past.
They enquired patiently at the polling areas and waited patiently for the polling officials and ballot papers and then returned peacefully home.
That is exemplary conduct worthy of praise.
The PNGEC has had five years to prepare for these elections. There should be no excuse for what is happening throughout the country and in NCD yesterday.
The PNGEC catch-word on its flyers and advertisements say: “Vote LPV, now that’s fair.”
Vote for a “free, fair & safe Election 2012”.
We say the organisation charged with delivering a free, fair and safe election in 2012 has been most unfair to the people of PNG.