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PNG Post-Courier

Angry voters in East Sepik and Hela have destroyed ballot boxes and set fire to ballot papers after finding that their names were not on the common roll in Papua New Guinea’s general election.

No reports were received of people or election officials being hurt in the violence.

Polling started on Monday and will run through to Friday in all 22 provinces.

Despite an assurance by the Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai that more than five million eligible voters would cast the ballots, many voters have been turned away because their names are not on the common roll, while in other locations there are not enough ballot papers for the number of eligible voters.

In Hela, nine ballot boxes were destroyed in various polling stations by angry voters while in Morobe, 300 ballot papers went up in flames by disappointed eligible voters who could not cast their votes because they were not registered on the common roll.

When responding to rumours of hijacking of ballot boxes, Hela provincial police commander Senior Inspector Robin Bore confirmed that ballot boxes were burnt and destroyed by voters on Monday morning.

He said the boxes destroyed were in Komo (4), North Koroba (2), South Koroba (1), Hulia (1) and Tari Pori local level government (1) while polling continued in the other parts of the province.

Polling boycotted
In Morobe, frustrated voters from Wampar urban local level government in Huon Gulf district boycotted polling on Monday and ordered the burning of about 300 ballot papers in the presence of police and Electoral Commission officials.

Huon Gulf returning officer Daniel Wasinak said eligible voters were frustrated that they were not registered on the common roll and they could not cast their votes.

He said about 700 ballot papers were designated for the ward, with two polling places identified.

First polling place is the Igam market just outside the PNG Defence Force Igam Barracks gate while another polling place was inside the army barracks for soldiers and their families.

In Wewak, East Sepik, polling at ward 12 Wewak Urban was suspended, again when names of eligible voters. This time PNG Defence Force soldiers from Moem Barracks could not find their names on the electoral roll.

Polling in Moem Barracks started at 11am with officers opening up the boxes but polling was halted for over two hours and cancelled at 2pm when soldiers argued that if their names were not on the roll, no one would vote, including their wives and children who were registered on the roll.

Polling was suspended indefinitely.

Voters devastated
At another polling station, also in Wewak, hundreds of voters who turned up at the polling booths yesterday were left devastated that they could not vote because they were not registered on the electoral roll.

Many of these voters were not first-time voters as they had voted in previous elections.

Long time families and residents of Makun and Malasi, including the Sauns, Koskys, Bangus and Silings are among those who have not found their names on the electoral roll.

In Aitape-Lumi, West Sepik Province, polling will commence when fuel and candidate lists are made available to the election officials on the ground.

Aitape-Lumi returning officer John Awas said polling has been deferred to whenever polling materials and fuel were made available.

He further confirmed that polling teams were yet to be deployed to their respective polling areas in the district.

Polling deferred
“Aitape-Lumi has deferred polling because payment for fuel to the local suppliers were not received and the suppliers would not give us fuel on credit either to enable us to move around and insert polling teams to their assigned location,” Awas said.

Meanwhile, candidates for several seats in Hela have warned that counting would not be allowed until they sorted out the disputed ballot boxes on record.

Candidate Francis Potape said there were two deaths from fighting at polling stations and six ballot boxes were allegedly hijacked at Takali.

He said yesterday that helicopters were still picking up people who were still polling in places only accessible by air.

Republished with permission.

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