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Gamato should resign after failed ‘ghost-busting’ defence

Patilias Gamato (The National)PAUL FLANAGAN | PNG Economics

ON Friday, the Papua New Guinean electoral commissioner, Patilias Gamato, issued a media release responding to claims made about the inadequacies of the 2017 voter common roll.

In the release, Mr Gamato (pictured) seriously misrepresented my earlier analysis (see articles here and here).

More intriguing, he seriously misrepresented what he himself tried to demonstrate in his media release.

Firstly, on the ludicrous claim that one cannot compare the 2017 electoral roll with the 2011 census (claiming that they are apples and oranges), he himself had made this exact same comparison on 9 April:

“This [the new electoral enrolment form] may reach one million and over and may contribute to a highly inflated 2017 roll as the number of eligible voters on the roll may equal or exceed the PNG population figure which is 7.5 million as per the 2011 census figures.”

So why can the electoral commissioner be permitted to make such a comparison, but no one else?

Second, doing a check on the ratio of the electoral roll to the expected voting age population is a standard and fundamental check on roll integrity.

This comparison is used in assessing electoral fairness throughout the world – including in PNG.

For example, in the Australian foreign affairs department assessment of its assistance to the PNG electoral commission from 2002 to 2012, it constantly uses the ratio of electoral roll to population as the basis for assessing the quality of the roll and Australia’s previous assistance in this area.

Third, Mr Gamato indicates I was trying to do a comparison between the quality of the 2012 electoral roll and the 2017 roll.

I would have liked to have done this comparison, but the electoral commission had not previously released data which allowed a test of a bias towards People’s National Congress electorates.

So all I was able to do previously was to examine the 2017 roll - and all indications are that it is incredibly biased towards PNC.

The electoral commissioner should unquestionably release more information to the public – doing so would have helped stop the devastating blow to PNG’s election credibility caused by the resignation of the entire electoral advisory committee,

It resigned on the grounds that it was not provided with such information.

Fourth, Gamato shot himself in the foot as an an unintended outcome of this provision of additional information, which now allows  a broad comparison to be made between electoral bias in the 2012 and 2017 electoral rolls.

The new information shows that, while there has been a commendable reduction in the number of excess electors (inflated rolls or ghost voters) on the common roll, the reduction has been concentrated in non-PNC areas.

So while it is commendable that the average size of ghost voters has fallen from 7,500 per PNC electorate to 6,000 per electorate, it is extraordinary that the reduction in non-PNC areas has been much greater (from around 4,000 per electorate to under 500 – and a negative number when statistical outliers are excluded).

This ghost-busting effort is 23% for PNC areas (pretty poor) but it is 89% for non-PNC areas – a noteworthy achievement. But this is a very biased pattern of “ghost-busting” which helps O’Neill’s position.

On the basis of this substantial bias, Mr Gamoto should resign.

Finally, it is worth noting that, despite the abuse of the power of incumbency by the O’Neill government shown in the biased electoral roll, the election results overall do show the Papua New Guinean voters’ desire for change.

We must hope for a unified front in those seeking a change, a change needed to deal with corruption, poor governance and the disappointing economic and budgetary and exchange rate performance of the last five years.


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Lindsay F Bond

Hooray might have been sounded, clearly audible, though of many who cry, any clarity will be muffled by an incredulous holding of breath on learning of yet another process apparently not aligned with constitutional fidelity.

Read all about it: https://postcourier.com.pg/gamato-ousted/

Lindsay F Bond

Apparently there existed at Fiji and at Southern Rhodesia, circumstances of enrolment and in conduct of elections that the tool for registration of enrolment became that known as “Common Roll”.
See: Dundas, Carl W. in “Observing Elections the Commonwealth's Way: The Early Years”
See: Lal, V in “A Vision for Change: Speeches and Writings of AD Patel, 1929-1969”

Somewhat fortunately, people of PNG opted for the terms ‘Roll’ and ‘Electoral Roll’.
More common commentators and media might appraise of themselves, choicer terms.

“Gamato seems confident and determined to deliver what the people expect of him” though knowing time and funding were ‘not on his side’. So were too many expecting too little?
See: http://www.thenational.com.pg/clean-common-roll-2017/

News-media ‘National’ reported Gamato as having a ‘mandate’ (commission actually).
Some ‘preventative measures’ were stripped from the commission and handed to a Mr Lupari.
In October 2016, “Gamato told the nation…that the “ghost” names which had created so much problems among voters and elections officials in 2012 have been sorted out” though report gave no detail of method nor ‘sort-out’ personnel, thus “fake names on the 2012 common roll have been removed”, by sometime October 2016.

Of a “fair and free 2017 election”, on wards rolled...exactly.

Bernard Corden

Dear Paul,

It must be so heartbreaking for you to witness such blatant corruption and incompetence. Your passion and love for the country is quite evident every article I have read on the ASOPA blog.
My late brother Ron, shared your enthusiasm of PNG and it is one of the few countries left on earth with a true culture but it will soon disappear and once it has gone you will not get it back.
Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till its gone, they've paved paradise and put up a parking lot - Joni Mitchell.

Paul Flanagan

My father, Noel Flanagan AO, was director of Australia’s War Memorial from 1975 to 1983. I grew up with a deep respect for those who gave their lives. Often such innocent lives were lost due to government incompetence. But sometimes due to very important battles about ideas on how best to form our societies and future for our children.

We are seeing one of those battles underway in PNG today. My respect to all those who have fallen during this election. This article is a response to the electoral commissioner’s rejoinder last Friday to previous analysis showing that the PNG election was unquestionably biased. My previous article can be linked to here.

On balance, I consider the electoral commissioner’s statement very disappointing. I do understand the difficulties of electoral implementation in PNG – I have been writing on the country since 1978 - but I can’t understand the systemic bias.

Papua New Guinea – love you, stay safe and please be united in finding a way forward.

Bernard Corden

The US elections are no different

William Dunlop

Any self respecting Tomato would be most ashamed of Gamato.

Bernard Corden

Congratulations Martyn,

The tomato fiasco received a mention in this week's edition of The Spectator.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The PNG election isn't the only one in progress at the moment.

Timor Leste is having elections and so is Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe is standing again even though he is 93 years old. "The people love me," is his excuse. Perhaps reflecting Donald Trump?

I can see a 93 year old Peter O'Neill in many years time saying the same thing.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'm still not absolutely sure that this election is any worse than previous ones.

The big differences seem to be the reports on social media and the targeted ghost votes in which process the electoral commission must have been complicit, especially as it required printing extra ballot papers.

Past prime ministers used ghost votes but they at least printed the ballot papers locally.

The current scenario has been a long time coming but as Paul notes, O'Neill probably has some more dirty tricks up his sleeve.

Declaring a failed election and instituting emergency powers (read: coup) might be on the cards.

Lindsay F Bond

When EU's Angela Merkel put in an 'eye roll', appeared so with both.
When PNG's EC put up eyed roll, it tried to right but looks left game to error.

Paul Oates

Beware of the PNC's potential 'dying kick'. It has yet to be revealed.

If the now obvious and terribly farcicle effort to fraudulently procure an election win has come unstuck, get ready for the next logical step that either:

1. The total results are challenged to the extent that the outcome is so clouded that those in power continue to exercise their power while the results are 'fiddled' further, or

2. A new election is called at some time in the future.

Either way, the Electoral Commissioner should be sacked as his credibility has been totally destroyed.

Yet, who is it who should ultimately be held accountable? The Commissioner or the person/s who placed him in the role?

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