Commonwealth observers ready for action

Commonwealth observer speaks with voters in Hela Province, 2012 (Treva Braun | Commonwealth Secretariat)

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.

At the invitation of the PNG Electoral Commission, the Commonwealth Secretariat will deploy the Group to observe and report on the country’s national election scheduled to begin on 2 July.

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.”

Polling station in Bougainville (Commonwealth Secretariat)

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.

Women vote at the 2017 election (Commonwealth Secretariat)

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.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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