By HELEN TARAWA
AN election observer was punched and had his cell phone smashed, and other observers were harassed in separate incidents involving security officers in Port Moresby.
The incidents last week have raised the concern of Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato who has written to Police Commissioner Gari Baki to deal with the issue which he said “do not reflect well” on the country.
There are 850 observers, including more than 100 from overseas, in the country to observe the conduct of the general election. They are expected to file reports and make recommendations on the conduct of the general election.
“As Electoral Commissioner, I am deeply concerned about the manner in which election observers have been treated as this does not reflect well on us as the host nation,” Gamato said.
“This has prompted me to write to the Commissioner of Police Gari Baki over the weekend to register my grave concern.”
Gamato said the first incident at the Rita Flynn sports complex counting venue for the Moresby North-West and National Capital District regional seat involved an observer (a local man) representing the Australian National University.
Gamato said the man was punched by security personnel and had his mobile phone smashed. He was also refused entry to the Rita Flynn counting venue.
The second incident involved the harassment of members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group headed by former Solomon Islands Prime Minister Sir Francis Billy Hilly.
“The MSG observers were also subjected to harassment and aggression by security personnel on two occasions,” he said.
Gamato has asked Baki to remind members of the security forces to allow election observers to carry out their work without being subjected to harassment or aggression.
“As long as the observers are acting within their code of conduct, they must be allowed to do their work,”Gamato said.
Baki, who is currently out of Port Moresby, told The National last night that he was yet to be briefed on the matter by Assistant Police Commissioner Sylvester Kalaut. He also is yet to see the letter from Gamato.
Kalaut, the police commander for the National Capital District and Central, and Metropolitan Superintendent Benjamin Turi, indicated last night they were yet to briefed on the incidents.
Source : The National