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PNG Taps into Indian experience on elections

Papua New Guinea ELECTORAL Commissioner Patilias Gamato is among a high-powered PNG government delegation that visited India early this month on a fact finding mission to get a better appreciation of how PNG can capitalize on opportunities offered by India.

With India as the largest democracy in the world, Mr Gamato will use the opportunity to tap into India’s experience in dealing with elections.

“Taking into account the critical challenges that confronted PNGEC in the conduct of 2017 national election, we will look at how PNG can replicate India’s approach to elections so that we deliver a free and fair election in 2022,” he said.

Mr Gamato said they will be talking to the Indian government on how PNG can harness its existing resources and bring in complementary technology or skill-sets to create a full proof system that would be a mainstay towards delivering successful elections in the future.

“Linking PNG’s electoral system to the National Identification (NID) project is vital in ensuring that all eligible voters nationwide are captured on the roll prior to any electoral event,” he said.

“There’s a need to review and incorporate PNGEC’s position on NID; Civil Registry; National Statistical Office and voter registration.”

He said that transforming towards biometrics and increasing complex technology is the subject of discussion in many countries including PNG.

Mr Gamato said that the issue of biometrics and other technologies at the possible expense of simpler, less cost and potentially more effective systems has been widely discussed among election experts without public involvement.

“More discussions should involve the public since the issues directly affect them. They must, in the first instance, accept ownership if the system is to succeed nationwide.”

He pointed out that biometrics only addresses only one problem in elections which is multiple voting.

“Biometrics does not address the myriad of other forms of election fraud that can and does take place during elections in PNG. It also does not promote and ensure wider participation by voters,” Mr Gamato said.

“Lessons learnt in the 2017 electoral event, particularly issues surrounding the voter roll, should remind the government to act with greater caution when continuing to strengthen the current voter registration system.”

He said that the government needs to be fully conversant on this matter by exploring and analyzing the need for voter ID requirements and the same time delicately balancing it between fraud prevention and facilitating greater participation of voters during elections.

He expressed concern that for a long time now there had been no real reliable data or statistics to analyze the most serious problems PNG faces during each electoral event.

The 18-member PNG government delegation is headed by National Planning and Monitoring Minister Richard Maru, six other cabinet ministers and relevant departmental heads and representatives. Sunday Chronicle/PNG Today
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