| Academia Nomad | Edited
WAIGANI - The Bougainville Regional seat represents the people of Bougainville in the Papua New Guinea parliament.
It was left vacant when the incumbent resigned to contest the Bougainville presidential election in 2019, making a by-election necessary.
Bougainville has been an autonomous region since 2001. It has its own House of Representatives led by a president and it also has representatives in the national parliament just like any other province in PNG.
In January, journalist Llane Munau contested a by-election for the regional seat; the winner of which also becomes Bougainville governor.
Furthermore, since PNG independence in 1975 no Bougainvillean woman had been elected to the national parliament. Llane was seeking to become the first.
A seat in the PNG parliament at this time is crucial, not least because the PNG parliament will have the final say in whether or not Bougainville becomes independent.
One of Llani’s key policies was to seek a fixed date for independence.
In 2019, Bougainvilleans voted 98% in favour of establishing their own country, but the final decision resides with the 111 members in the PNG parliament.
Now Llani has written an enthralling review of her campaign, declaring, “I owed it to my voters, friends, supporters and family, plus anyone else who wants to know, how the elections went for me.”
What follows is Llani’s account of the election drawn from her own experience as published in Facebook.
There will be other perspectives, of course, but this is how a candidate at the very centre of events saw the election unfold:
HOW the elections went for me? In one word ‘awesome’!
Or that was until the Monday after counting, when I started getting calls from women groups around the island asking me ‘ol vot blong mipla go we?’ [Where are our votes?]
And there was also the question, ‘Wai na ol meri Bougainville no votim displa wanpla meri candidate tasol?’ [Why didn’t the women of Bougainville vote for the only female candidate?]
The answer was that the majority of females who voted did vote for me because they agreed with my five policies.
Now the big question is, where are the votes and why aren’t they showing on the tally board?
In Siwai a group of more than 60 women hired a truck and went to a particular polling place and cast their votes for me.
As they said, “it’s time they all vote for a female.” But when the tally came out I received only 14 votes from the whole constituency.
Where are these votes? Women do not lie about their votes, especially mothers from women fellowship groups.
In Taonita Teop and Taonita Tinputz it was the same.
I didn’t mind being behind until women called me up, or stopped our vehicle on the road, to ask me, ‘Ol vot blong mipla go we?’ or ‘Mipla lotu group mama wantaim ol pikinini na man blong mipla go votim yu.’
Then came the church youth groups and the ex-combatants, asking the same questions. I didn’t know how I could answer them because their votes never showed on the tally.
I knew I had campaigned well in the Tinputz area and in the places I couldn’t reach, the women, church groups and ex-combatants ran very good campaigns.
However the votes never showed up, along with the 300 plus votes of my family in Tinputz.
The tally showed I got little to no votes from there as it seemed the two constituencies block voted for only one candidate.
Then I started to look at how the votes were tallied in each region of Bougainville.
In Central Bougainville, when it came to boxes 75 – 130 from South and North Nasioi areas where I come from, the PNG and Bougainville electoral commissions’ staff coordinating the counting stopped their call-out of votes for our scrutineers.
Then the electoral staff just stopped counting and packed away the ballot boxes without letting our scrutineers know the final results.
When the scrutineers enquired they gave excuses like, ‘There’s no pen marker to write the tally on the yellow canvas’, or ‘There’s no ink for the printer’.
We followed the electoral staff to their office only to be met with more excuses.
From 2:30pm to 9:00pm we stood in heavy rain at the office waiting for some answers.
They put out the yellow canvas in front of the office and started writing numbers. Later they gave us a printout, which to our surprise showed one of the candidates 13,000 plus votes from just 55 ballot boxes, whilst the rest had two thousand less.
I collected 1,000 plus votes from boxes 1 – 74, which are not from my areas, but when it came to my home turf I don’t know how the votes went because we just got a printout telling us how many votes we got altogether from Central Bougainville.
And now my family, friends and supporters are asking ‘Ol vot blong mipla go we?’
In South Bougainville my village of Nagovis has less than 700 people. The number of voters would be 250 or less.
But to my surprise, more than 1,000 votes came from that box.
I got votes but one particular candidate got over 500 votes.
I know half the people didn’t vote, so what was happening? Where did all those votes come from?
Now it has dawned on me.
These are the same questions supporters of candidates in the last Autonomous Bougainville Government election were asking: ‘Ol Vot Blong Mipla Go We?’
Candidates they voted for, especially in the presidential and some special seats, did not collect a single vote in their supporters’ areas.
Many people in those areas shared my sentiments and I began to wonder, ‘Is our electoral process transparent? Have people’s votes been tampered with? Are our elected leaders voted into power in a clean way?
Well I’m not a judge but I am a journalist and an excellent researcher. I work with evidence and data, and from what I’ve collected there is something fishy going on.
Bougainville is a small island and we have family and friends everywhere, and for them to come show me their painted fingers and tell me straight to my face that they voted for me when I got no votes from their particular boxes, I ask again, ‘What is happening. Where are these people’s votes?’
All in all, people must know that the majority of women in Bougainville voted for me, but where are their votes?
Though it was only a one-day poll and not many people voted, reports from presiding officers said at nearly all polling booths from north to south more women voted than men.
So where are our votes?
I’m writing this piece because next year we will have another PNG election and I don’t ever want to hear voters asking the question ‘Ol Vote Blong Mipla Go We?’
I want to prepare people who will be standing to be cautious and protect their votes.
I over-trusted the system and the system failed my mothers, sisters and supporters.
But I have also trusted God wholly and His Word says, ‘Whatever is hidden will be shouted on the roof tops.’
The shouting has just begun.