KEITH JACKSON – posted on PNG Attitude blog
NOOSA – A former president of Nauru, Baron Waqa, will lead the Commonwealth Observer Group to Papua New Guinea’s national election next month.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland QC has named the 10 members of the group [see below], who come from nine countries, including six Pacific Islands nations.
They will arrive in Port Moresby on 28 June and stay until the completion of the electoral process in late July.
The observers will be deployed throughout the country supported by a team from the Commonwealth Secretariat led by Linford Andrews, Head of the Electoral Support Section.
A pre-election assessment team visited PNG in March to finalise preparations for the complex operation.
Secretary-General Scotland said the deployment of the group demonstrates the Commonwealth’s commitment to supporting electoral democracy in member countries.
“It is also a recognition of the right of individuals to participate in democratic processes through credible, inclusive and transparent elections.
“Free elections shape their societies,” she said.
“I firmly believe that the observer group will provide an independent assessment of the electoral process and work together with the people and Government of Papua New Guinea to strengthen their democratic process.”
The group will observe and consider all aspects of PNG’s election process: the administration of polling stations, the voting process, the counting of ballot papers and announcement of results.
Under the leadership of ex-president Waqa, the group will determine whether the elections are conducted in line with the democratic standards to which PNG has committed itself.
Observers will act impartially and adhere to the standards of the International Declaration of Principles for Election Observation.
After the elections, the group will issue an interim statement of its preliminary observations and hold a press conference in Port Moresby.
A final report, which will include recommendations to help improve future electoral processes, will be presented to the PNG government and the Electoral Commission.
The report of the observer group at the 2017 election was strongly criticised for its perceived failure to identify many substantial problems around voting which were reported by other individuals and organisations, including a well managed team from the Australian National University.
It was felt that, for diplomatic reasons, the Commonwealth Observer Group had withheld criticisms that should have been made.
Commonwealth Observer Group members
HE Baron Divavesi Waqa – Chairperson, Former President of Nauru
Dr Nicole George, University Lecturer and Researcher, University of Queensland, Australia
Ms Makereta Komaidrue, Editor, Pacific Islands News Association, Fiji
Dame Winifred Laban, Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika), Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Ms Makereta Vaaelua, Deputy Returning Officer, Electoral Commission of Samoa
Mr Hendrick Gappy, Former Chairman, Seychelles Electoral Commission
Hon Peter Kenilorea Jnr MP, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee, Solomon Islands
Mr Johnson Honimae, Chief Executive Office, Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation
Ms Emeline Siale Ilolahia, Executive Director, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, Tonga
Mr Wilson Toa, Country Manager, Vanuatu Balance of Power.