Journalist Mark Davis has abstracted the main issues of a comprehensive report by the Australian National University’s on the 2017 Papua New Guinea national election. Beginning today, we present Mark’s summary in four parts. The ANU report documents a scandalous election replete with threats, malfeasance and corruption.
You can link to it in full here
CAIRNS - The Australian National University has delivered a devastating and incontrovertible account of the 2017 Papua New Guinea election
The report calls into question the legitimacy of the current regime of prime minister Peter O’Neill and the future of the nation’s parliamentary democracy.
The long-awaited ‘2017 Papua New Guinea Elections - Election Observation Report’ reveals the systematic corruption of the election by Mr O’Neill’s ruling People’s National Congress Party, other parties and candidates, the PNG Electoral Commission, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, the PNG Defence Force and other elements of society.
It is an extraordinarily detailed report who’s unique and invaluable data is based on direct observation by a team of 258 including 32 PNG academics and researchers as team leaders, 31 ANU-based academics and students, 192 PNG observers and three support staff.
It is unprecedented in detail, scope, and intensity, covering all four PNG regions, and 69 of the 111 electorates, including detailed studies of 44 electorates.
Detailed observations were conducted of 945 of the 10,825 polling stations, and 7,510 citizens were surveyed individually.
Observations were carried out over three months from the start of the campaign period to post-polling, amounting to more than 6,500 person-days, and were recorded in template journals kept by each observer.
The report is a showpiece of election data and analysis - it is delivered in lay language and clearly based on a foundation of well-coordinated and comprehensive field coverage by a qualified and knowledgeable team.
It has the ring of absolute authenticity and it pulls no punches.
The report gives the lie to claims by Mr O’Neill, then Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and Australian officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) that the election was free, fair and successful.
It was not.
The report demonstrates that on virtually any basis the election failed, and that the forming of a government by the O’Neill regime was illegitimate. Papua New Guinea can no longer be seen as a free and fair parliamentary democracy.
ANU lists and provides astonishing detail of corruption of the electoral process, including blatant rigging of the electoral roll by PNC and the Electoral Commission, widespread manipulation of voting, vote-counting and post-polling by electoral officials, political parties and candidates, partisan violence and intimidation by the police, the Defence Force, electoral officials and political parties and candidates, widespread bribery, ballot paper fraud from the highest levels down to polling places, ballot box tampering, extensive voter fraud and other illegalities and failure of proper process.
Irregularities continued through to the declaration of seats and the return of writs.
At least 204 election-related deaths and many hundreds of injuries were identified, along with widespread damage to government and private property, which continued long after the election. Recent police shootings and other activities in Port Moresby and Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province, are election-related and involve the participation of the notorious Baker Gang on behalf of a Milne Bay candidate.
The report refers to other examples of the involvement of criminal elements in the 2017 election. The true toll of death, injury and property damage is unlikely to be ever known but could be substantially higher than estimated.
The long-delayed publication of the report, formally announced this week at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, raises questions about attempted Australian political and bureaucratic interference in its release.
It is 20 months since the formation of government in PNG, and long past the report’s original publication deadline. It is known that the Liberal National coalition government and DFAT are strongly opposed to the report.
It will also infuriate the PNG government, which is one of the most corrupt regimes on earth and operates behind a veil of secrecy, deceit, dishonesty and disinformation. Never before has its corruption been so brutally and comprehensively exposed.
DFAT and the Australian government also have good reason to be infuriated - the report exposes as nonsense a post-election statement by then foreign minister Julie Bishop, which said:
“The Australian government congratulates PNG, one of our closest friends and partners, on its successful election and we look forward to continuing to work with prime minister O’Neill and PNG’s new government.
“The [Australian] government will consider the reporting and observations from electoral observers about the conduct of the election when that information is made available.”
Over to you, Australian foreign minister Marise Payne.
Mark Davis worked as a media adviser to Sir Mekere Morauta, former prime minister and Member for Moresby North-West in the national parliament