Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Canberra backs election schedule

By FRANK SENGE KOLMA

AUSTRALIA wants the PNG 2012 general election to take place as scheduled, The National reports. This is the first time Australia has entered the debate on deferral of elections and indicates the seriousness with which PNG’s  strongest supporter and neighbour views the issue.
A spokesman for the High Commission in Port Moresby said yesterday  Australia was willing to increase its present assistance to the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission if that would help the commission to deliver the elections on time.
The timetable is for writs to be issued on April 27, nominations to open on May 4, polling to start on June 23, polling to end July 6 and for the return of writs on July 27.
 “Australia is soon going to provide further advisory support for (common) roll integrity and quality assurance,” the High Commission spokesman said.
 “We want to emphasise that Australia will provide PNGEC with additional support to go ahead with its timelines. That is our core focus.”
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and PNG Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen yesterday
reaffirmed separately that the election would be conducted as scheduled.
O’Neill said there was a genuine concern about the integrity of the common roll and to address this, his government had approached the United Nations to conduct an independent audit into the commission’s state of readiness to conduct the elections.
A submission would go before cabinet this week and the United Nations team would be tasked to report back before parliament next meets on March 22.
Australia provided A$12 million for capacity building in the PNGEC between last year and this year.
It  more recently provided 30 high-powered computers which are operating around the clock in updating the common roll.
It had also assigned a deputy election operations director, a logistics officer, an air transport coordinator, a police coordination adviser and two helicopters for the PNG Defence Force election response force to help with the general election beginning in April.
On the plan to introduce a bio-metric system for PNG, the High Commission spokesman said: “This is for Papua New Guinea to consider, but Australia would not support the introduction of bio-metric identification of voters in Papua New Guinea for this election.
“No electoral body, including the PNG Electoral Commission, has the capacity to develop, plan and implement a nationally consistent and trusted ID card system so close to an election.
“We estimate such as system would take up to five years to implement.
“It would be technically complex and require significant resources.”

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