Changes to 2017 National Election dates, hot topic

The National Executive Council’s proposal to bring legislation before Parliament to defer dates of the 2017 National Election was the hottest topic in politics last week.

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato was quoted in The National newspaper on Monday that the dates for the Issue of Writs may be deferred to May 20 because of legislations before Parliament.  

The current date for the issue of writs is April 20.  

Last Tuesday, Opposition Leader Don Polye held a media conference questioning the integrity of the Electoral Commissioner and the office he occupies.

 “Mr Gamato has lost himself, his personal and professional credibility and also his decisions and actions as the Electoral Commissioner of Papua New Guinea has brought into question the integrity and credibility of the commission and the role it plays.

 “And because it is authorised by the Constitution of Papua New Guinea, it is a constitutional (and) independent office that makes its decision without undue influence and without compromise or without correction from other authorities like the National Executive Council, Prime Minister or any other agencies,” Polye said.   

The electoral commissioner when contacted by Loop PNG said to release a statement, which did not happen.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill later in the week released a statement slamming the Oppositions claims that the PNG Electoral Commission is biased.

O’Neill said the Electoral Commission is a constitutional office and must not be dragged into politics.

"It is highly disrespectful, and goes against the nature of our democracy, for the Leader of the Opposition to seek to tarnish the reputation of the Electoral Commission as he has done.  

“The Opposition has to respect the fact that the Electoral Commission must remain separate from political debate and be allowed to deliver its mandated job without fear or favour,” O’Neill said.

The Prime Minister added that, the 2017 National Elections will be delivered within budget and in a safe and secure environment.

Two members of the alternative government, Deputy Opposition Leader Sam Basil and Northern Governor Gary Juffa also joined the debate.

Basil said, only Parliament has the authority to change any existing laws governing National Elections.  

“Mr Gamato must explain his organisations’ original advice and submission to the National Executive Council (NEC) that has provided the inspiration for these major proposed changes to PNG’s election laws,” Basil questioned.

Juffa labelled the 12th hour electoral reforms as an act by the Government effort to manipulate the 2017 National Elections.

He said it was totally absurd to be suddenly making amendments and reforms now when the Government had five years to do so with adequate consultation with all stakeholders.

Parliament sits on January 24. 

Charles Yapumi