Home > Human rights, Papua New Guinea, Politics > Backlash online as PNG postpones elections

Backlash online as PNG postpones elections

Felim McMahon

Citizens of Papua New Guinea expressed anger Friday after parliament voted to delay elections by six months. Prime minister Peter O’Neill repeatedly promised the poll would go ahead, but public representatives were told electoral rolls were not updated and the police weren’t ready for the vote, which had been scheduled for June.

It’s a sad day for #PNG. I’m quite disappointed in Peter O’Neill. This will not go down well with the people. Expect a backlash #PNG #pngpol

There was an immediate and unfavourable reaction to the news online:

From : newsonabc

May God have mercy on your evil little political souls, oh current govt. “For the people”, Blahh… Goh die 🙂#pngpol

Opposition leader, Dame Carol Kidu, said the postponement was an abuse of the constitution.

What more will they do in the determination of a few to “test the Constitution”. Will they eventually attempt to suspend the Constitution? Namah has repeatedly said that not all countries have a Constitution and ours was written by foreigners? Where are they leading this nation?

From : Masalai

Protests against the election postponement and the bid to exert power over the judiciary are being planned for Tuesday:

Next week Tuesday Supreme Court decides legitimate govt. Students and public will protest against JCA and the 6 month election delay #PNG

PNG’s former attorney general, Sir Arnold Amet, agreed that the deferral is unconstitutional:

“It is clearly a misconstruction, misinterpretation and whichever legal advisor gave that advice is fundamentally wrong,” he said. Amet is also a former chief justice and says PNG’s constitution only allows the life of parliament to be extended in an emergency such as a war.

From : ABC

There were early indications that dissatisfaction would translate into protest action:

#PNGeans are expressing outrage via social media to the govt’s deferral of elections. There’s a massive backlash.

The move to delay elections came 24 hours after a law was passed which allows parliament to remove ‘biased’ judges. Two senior judges were then suspended under the terms of the new law. The judges are part of a five-man Supreme Court bench hearing a major constitutional case arising from a leadership battle between O’Neill and his predecessor Sir Michael Somare. In December, the Supreme Court ordered that Somare be reinstated, ruling that O’Neill was not lawfully appointed.

Transparency International (PNG) chairman Lawrence Stephens … said the good governance watchdog was horrified at the manner in which the legislation was rushed through parliament.

“This act by the members of the parliament is an attack to the rights of Papua New Guineans,” he said, “The bill now passed by the national parliament will control and suppress the conduct of judges of the National and Supreme Courts.”

From : malumnalu

Some Papuans asked if it was time to check the power of parliament:

The recent developments on the #PNG political scene begs the question of whether or not we need another level of Parliament, like the Senate

Others wondered if their leaders had taken leave of their senses:

Disgusting News #PNG ! Is there anyone left in parliament who is still sane?

The news present a challenge for Australia, whose foreign minister Bob Carr said it would seek to convince O’Neill’s administration to change its approach. Carr previously warned Australia would impose sanctions on its former dependent territory if elections were delayed, but on Thursday he said sanctions would be premature.

” We have a commitment to seeing that countries in this region stick by a democratic formula … The old formula that says people determine their rulers and they do it on a regular basis.”

From : Radio Australia

#PNG Carr’s first real crisis. Strategic neighbour in total defiance. How will he handle it? What will he say? What impact can he have?

Deputy prime minister Belden Namah warned against foreign interference after parliament passed the measures by 63 to 11 votes:

“Whatever (Australian Foreign Minister) Mr Bob Carr says about sanctions, I want to say … do not threaten the independent state of PNG,” he said, You must respect our wishes. You must not intrude into our election process.”

From : PNG blogs

But PNG’s government must also take into account its image abroad, as underlined by this tweet:

#PNG definition of an independent state is one that has donors support its citizens while its leaders loot the country.

Part of that external aspect is the question of natural resources. PNG is witnessing unrest over a controversial gas pipeline, which resulted in one death this week:

A worker lays dead after a police shoot out at ExxonMobil’s LNG project in the Southern Highlands Province #PNG http://t.co/7gNy2Cvi

Internally, there are fears for the stability of the country. Opposition leader Kidu added that she feared for PNG’s future if constitutional order was undone:

Dame Carol says there is a limit to the tolerance of the people of PNG and she thinks the country is getting very close to that limit. But how it will evolve is hard to predict, she says, as PNG is a very fractured society of over 800 tribes held together by the constitution. Dame Carol says without the constitution as supreme PNG is in danger of becoming a dictatorship or disintegrating into anarchy ruled by warlords.

From : Radio New Zealand

 Some are wondering about the suitability of the current system of government:

The deferral of the #PNG elections – another facet of the Westminster political system wilts in the face of political realities

Others counseled that the future did not have to be dark:

So much seems so wrong in #PNG. But the future does not hav 2 b bleak. Good things r happening where ppl are taking control of their future
  1. PK
    April 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

    Faced with the lack of any real assurance to the Government and the Nation from the Electoral Commission and the seeming diffidence of the Chief Electoral Commissioner on the preparations and readiness to go to the polls, the Government wasn’t left without much choice but to defer the elections. The worst decision the Parliament would have made under these circumstances is for all parliamentarians to ignore their sense of responsibility, their individual sensibilities as mandated by the people and their own counsel and not to have made the 63-11 decision. The constitution is not a be all and end all – it is a product of its time (some 36 eons ago); who would have thought then that we would face such a kerfuffle in April 2012. Some of the challenges we are facing now bear no comparison or relevance to what the constitutional visionaries and architects may have envisioned at the time.

    This country and the voters have not been sufficiently prepared and organized in terms of what the PNGEC needs to have done to go to the polls. The security challenges have not been met with proper preparations. The logistics if we went to the polls next month would be in total disarray. The state of preparations by the Electoral Commission has been shambolic!

    WHAT would a responsible Govt and Parliament have done do faced with this scenario? The worst decision to make is not to make a decision at all when faced with this dilemma!

    Bob Carr and the AusAID advisors at PNGEC, with Lawrie Stevens and TI in tow can all take a walk down to the ocean and draw a line in the water. And I can’t imagine Lady Kidu will be picking up dead carcasses or giving a lift to the walking wounded in the streets of Port Moresby, Lae, Mt Hagen, or wherever. Do these people think we are stupid?????????????????. There is a greater risk of upheaval by going to the polls now and for voters to find they have been disenfranchised by not being included in the electoral roll. The last election was worse than the one 5 years previously. This election would be far worse and unruly than the last one.

    The majority of MPs to the man agree with the postponement. It’s been put to the democratic vote of the Parliiament. It’s not a decision of NEC or PM O’Neil. It is a collective decision made by the the people’s representatives. They are accountable to the people and can wear the consequences that follow.

    The country is in need of moderating voices. Where are you Chief Ombudsman? You cannot keep cloaking yourself pleading independence and neutrality. Sir Michael is right in asking where the Chief Ombudsman and OC have been. It is worrying when the Chief Ombudsman comes out abruptly and tries to plead he and the Commission are “untouchable”.

  2. Jeni
    April 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    We don’t need moderating voices – we need RADICAL VOICES!!!! The moderating voices like those of Carol Kidu are precisely why we’ve fallen into the toilet. Enough of these moderating voices. Enough, ENOUGH!!!!!!

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