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China lines up to support PNG’s late election

Election Scrutineers  national election 2017 (Johnny Blades  RNZ)
Scrutineers at the national election in 2017 (Johnny Blades RNZ)


Democracy was hijacked with the vote undermined by brazen electoral fraud and unprecedented violence and insecurity - PNG Election 2017

NOOSA – China is offering assistance to curb election violence in Papua New Guinea, according to a report in today’s The Australian newspaper.

The story by Ben Packham, the paper’s well-connected foreign affairs and defence correspondent, comes ahead of PNG’s five-yearly election starting on Friday 9 July and finishing on Wednesday 22 July after a two-week delay for reasons that are unclear.

China’s helping hand follows a grim admission by PNG police commissioner David Manning that police and security forces “can only do so much because of our limitations” and an appeal to people “to help us deliver a free, fair and safe national general election”.

That this seems unlikely in the increasingly volatile and well-armed nation, underpins Packham’s exclusive story that China’s embassy in Port Moresby has been in talks with PNG officials about providing security support for the election.

“It’s unclear if the assistance would be in the form of funding or whether China would provide arms or protective equipment to PNG security personnel,” Packham wrote.

It is more likely that China will want to provide equipment and perhaps even security advisers, a step that would particularly alarm Australia, which is deploying military aircraft and 140 personnel “to assist with logistics and planning”.

But with the police commissioner continuing to express concern about his ability to contain election-related violence, an offer of personnel skilled in controlling mob violence would be of great appeal to the PNG government.

At the last national election in 2017, the Australian National University deployed 258 election observers to monitor polling activities throughout PNG who were shocked by what they witnessed.

“The elections were marred by widespread fraud and malpractice, and extensive vote rigging,” Dr Nicole Haley, the lead author of the study stated.

The subsequent report said that “democracy was ‘hijacked’ in many places, with the vote undermined by brazen electoral fraud and unprecedented violence and insecurity”.

It said “many voters were denied genuine choice through block voting, coerced collective voting, violence, intimidation and pre-marked ballot papers in many locations.

There were also failures in the electoral roll, theft and destruction of ballot boxes and ‘payments’ by candidates for votes on a grand scale.

Packham’s report today said Chinese foreign minister Yang Wi is likely to announce the nature and extent of China’s support to PNG when he visits Port Moresby on Thursday 2 June, five weeks before voting begins.

Meanwhile police commissioner Manning pleaded with Papua New Guineans to help his police deliver a free, fair and safe election.

"To those who are contesting, and your supporters, please refrain from violence,” he said.

“Do not bribe your voters. Do not threaten them. Your leadership qualities start now during the campaign and polling period. It does not start when you are elected into office.”


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