2610 Gamato condems attack on PNGEC officers in Mendi

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has condemned in the strongest possible terms the attack of senior Electoral Commission staff on their way to Mendi in Southern Highlands this morning to facilitate and witness the hand-over-take-over ceremony ​between former election manager David Wakias and the newly appointed election manager Jacob Kurap.

Mr. Gamato confirmed that about 500 members of the public were protesting the transfer of former election manager David Wakias came in 20 vehicles and blocked off the road at teh Anga River near Mendi and assaulted the five senior officers.

The PNGEC team travelling into Mendi town included acting Deputy Commissioner, Election Administration, Simon Sinai, Election Manager for New Ireland Alwyn Jimmy, Director Election Operations Margaret Vagi, Operations Manageress for the Highlands Region Kila Vaname and Human Resource Director Cecily Sevaru.

He told journalist at an urgent news conference this afternoon that the incident occurred at about 9:45am today (October 26, 2016) were people estimated about 500 came in more than 20 vehicles including buses, trucks and Toyota Landcruisers and blocked off the road and they had to turn back to Mt. Hagen.

"It was traumatic for my five senior officers when about 500 people converged on them with bush knives, sticks and stones and attacked them with Alwyn Jimmy actually punched," he said.

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PNGEC senior officers who were attacked at Anga bridge listening to protestors in Mendi town. From left: Kila Vaname, Cecily Sevaru, Simon Sinai and Margaret Vagi. Picture courtesy of The National newspaper.

Commissioner Gamato said the attackers questioned why the PNGEC staff were going to Mendi to replace David Wakias as election manager for Southern Highlands.

He said the attackers punched Alwyn Jimmy and pushed the three female officers and threatened them with bush knives and stones and also stole ​the officers' bags, personal belongings and money for the trip.

"For the public to abuse electoral officers while conducting their election duties is uncalled for and I condemn the attack in the strongest possible terms."

"I call on members of the public to respect electoral officers and democratic election process," a very concerned Gamato said.

The Electoral Commissioner said he has instructed his five senior officers to lay a formal complaint with the Mt. Hagen police.

"I have spoken with the Police Commissioner Gari Baki to instruct his policeman to conduct arrests and provide police escort for the team to go into Mendi after assessing the situation to complete the handover-takeover ceremony between Wakias and Kurap."

"I've called on Police Commissioner and requested that David Wakias should be arrested based on the complaints lodged by my senior officers, who is the main suspect," Gamato said.

The Electoral Commissioner also appealed to the public nationwide to respect Election Commission officers and enrolment agents who are currently out on the field conduct enrolment of eligible voters to update the electoral roll for 2017 elections.




ALPHONSE MUAPI
Media Consultant


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