Somare: Australian support to give confidence to PNG voters
I welcome the participation of the Australian Government in the provision of helicopters and logistical support for the conduct of a free and fair PNG national election.
As PNG’s closest ally and its most important development partner, we welcome the efforts of the Australian Government to pave the way for smooth conduct of the elections, which comes at a time of unprecedented domestic political instability.
Our democratic foundations are being challenged through breaches of the PNG Constitution and attacks on the independence of our much respected judiciary. There is much at stake in the lead up to the election of the 8th National Parliament since independence due to successive actions by the errant executive arm of government.
Australian assistance with military helicopters and logistics support can help ensure that PNG citizens throughout this country exercise their right to vote within the specified time frame.
This support could also provide the necessary logistics back-up to ensure that ballot boxes are handled with propriety and ensure the public is satisfied the ultimate outcome represents the will of the people devoid of concerns of widespread malpractices.
The assistance, and the formation of a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) involving military aircraft from PNG, Australia and New Zealand, has been underpinned by a contract signed on April 13 between the PNG and Australian Governments and PNG’s leading helicopter company, Hevilift.
Under this agreement Hevilift PNG, which is 50% owned by MRDC, will provide two twin engine medium lift helicopters and one light training helicopter, in PNGDF colours and markings, for a two-year period. They can be used in border patrols and disaster relief after the election.
Australia’s assistance in ensuring a free and fair election is conducted is especially important because the O’Neill-Namah regime continually ignores normal due processes in the recall of Parliament and its repeated attempts to sack Sir Michael Somare.
Mr Somare said: “With a regime that can lie on matters of national policy and sack PNG judges because they don’t like their decisions, there is every reason to be concerned about the conduct of the national election.
“All patriotic Papua New Guineans will recognise that when Belden Namah took the unprecedented step of personally leading a group of policemen to disrupt a Supreme Court hearing and to carry out a purported arrest of the Chief Justice, he did this in the knowledge that several hours later he was due to appear before that very court on contempt charges.
“This is a dictatorial individual with no respect for due processes or the rule of law, traits he shares with his current leader, Mr O’Neill.
“I believe the behaviour of Namah and O’Neill, for whom the end justifies the means, makes it imperative that the Australian Government plays a watchdog role in the conduct of the national elections.
“I would also hope the Electoral Commission invites reputable international observers to report to the international community on the conduct of the PNG election.”
Hon. Arthur Somare MP
Member for Angoram