Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch said today the often-repeated view of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill that the 2017 general election was one of the “most peaceful” is a myth that has been totally debunked.
Mr Pruaitch said the authoritative report by a 2017 PNG national election Observer Team, led by the Australian National University, documented 204 deaths due to election-related violence, including 84 that occurred between the issue of writs and commencement of polling.
In a statement, the Opposition Leader supported the call for a Commission of Inquiry into the 2017 general election by former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.
“Prime Minister O’Neill has a convenient lapse in memory in rejecting this call for an open inquiry,”Mr Pruaitch said. “The Prime Minister himself told Parliament, at its opening session after the 2017 general election, that serious election issues needed to be addressed.
“It is worth reminding citizens of this country that this is another failed promise by the O’Neill Government.
“Prime Minister O’Neill told Parliament on 2 August 2017, and I quote: ‘This Government commits to a full review of the electoral processes, that will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to share their views’.”
Mr Pruaitch said this was not the only election-related promise made by Mr O’Neill that has been broken.
Last year the Prime Minister promised a full inquiry into allegations of illegal conduct in Southern Highlands during the 2017 national election, after which several properties in Mendi connected directly to the Prime Minister were destroyed by the public.
“While the Prime Minister continues to claim the 2017 election was one of the ‘most peaceful’, nearly all PNG academics and experts involved in the ANU Observer Teams, in all four regions, were in agreement that the 2017 national election was the most violent they had witnessed. (A total of 258 Observers were involved.)
“The 130-page ANU report also placed a spotlight on the role of the security forces and police with some 60% of the Observer Teams witnessing police brutality, including the use of excessive force. This was reported by all the 13 Observer Teams in the Highlands.
“In Hela, Eastern Highlands and NCD election observers witnessed security personnel driving vehicle sat speed into crowds to disperse those who had gathered. In several locations’security personnel fired warning shots or shots directly into gathered crowds.
“The ANU report said civilian deaths had occurred in Southern Highlands, Hela, Enga and GulfProvince.”
Mr Pruaitch said it was too much to expect that Prime Minister O’Neill would honour his promise to Parliament to conduct a full inquiry into the 2017 general election because the findings would confirm that these law breakers were acting on behalf of the Peoples’ National Congress.
Other points raised by the ANU report included:
· -Nationwide 13 seats were declared with fewer than 80% of ballot boxes counted, including three provincial seats with less than 30% of ballot boxes counted;
· -About 10% of voters interviewed by the Observer Teams said they had voted multiple times as against 20% voting multiple times in the Highlands. Highlanders in this group each voted an average of 18 times, while other PNG citizens rarely voted more than twice.
· -Twenty out of 35 observer teams reported police harassment of scrutineers, local observers, counting officials and, in some cases, the general public;
· -65% of citizens interviewed after polling believed conditions in the 2017 elections were worse than in 2012 and 2017 and less than half (46%) said they had been freely able to exercise their vote without undue intimidation.
“In any other democracy such occurrences would have resulted in the election being declared a failed election,” Mr Pruaitch said.