Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ballot boxes yet to be moved to remote areas

The National, Thursday June 21st, 2012
SOME ballot boxes and election materials in Madang are still awaiting transportation by helicopter to the remote polling stations, according to returning officer Adolf Duagha.
Duagha said it would need a miracle to move the materials from Madang to the four LLG areas before polling on Saturday.
The Electoral Commission had signed a K13.7 million contract with Heli-Solutions to transport election materials and officers.
The helicopters were used to transport the election materials to the Middle Ramu area.
Heli-Solutions has hired an five helicopters from an Australian firm.
A company source said the aircraft were currently in Wewak.
It needed the finer details from some of the provinces on where they should be flying.
“Despite the EC saying that they are ready, they are not yet ready, including in Madang,” said the source.
Madang also has a shortage of fixed and rotor wings. Islands Airways, the sole company to charter planes in the Middle Ramu area, is fully booked out.
Duangha said boxes for the four LLGs - Arabaka, Kowon, Simbai and Josephstaal - were going to be a problem as most roads were inaccessible.
“My major problem is Josephstaal. The only airstrip is overgrown and pigs forage there,’’ he said.
“There is no road access despite funding made available last year by the sitting MP Ben Semri. I cannot see any road and will have to depend on choppers..
 “It is the middle of the week and I need a miracle.”
Middle Ramu has 30 polling teams: 10 in Arabaka, eight in Josephstaal and six each in Kowon and Simbai.
There are 41 police officers allocated to the area.
Preparations for other districts are on target.
For Raicoast, there are 36 polling teams - seven for Naiudo, Naho Rawa and Astrolobe Bay and 15 for Saidor, the biggest in area.
Returning Officer Jimmy Aspel confirmed that all ballot boxes, fuel and the logistics had been sorted out. But he was not too sure about security arrangements.
“There will be police escorting the boxes to polling stations but whether they will be there depends on if and when their allowances are released.
“We will not wait for them. They will have to catch up”, he said.
For Usino Bundi, returning officer Steven Biko said he was confident of ensuring that the election would be conducted in a free, fair and safe manner.
He said helicopters were needed to move ballot boxes into remote areas of the three LLGs - Gama, Usino and Bundi. 27 polling teams will be on the ground - 15 for Usino and six each for the other two.

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