I voted a day late on June 27th in the 2012 PNG General Election at the Waigani Primary School in the nation’s capital. I was among the many voters from the UPNG area to cast our votes on Wednesday, rather than on Tuesday as originally scheduled.
I was in a good mood to vote on the day I voted. I had a bilum full of betel nuts to help me stay focused on the task at hand. It was an important task; an exercise in celebrating free will to vote in a democratic society. Papua New Guineans exercise every five years this right of citizenry.
Everything looked fine without any disturbances at the polling station. There were a few iiregularities. The first problem appeared when a woman used someone else’s name. The election scrutineers were quick to respond to this irregularity, pointing out that the known person of that same name was also in line to vote. The woman with the false name was turned away from voting. The next woman after her was illiterate that on asking someone to help her it turned out she was not on the list of voters eligible to vote there at that time. She was an elderly woman who had been staying with a relative in the electorate. An argument began between the relative of the two women who were turned away and the election scrutineers.
The scrutineers wanted the election officials to correct this mistake immediately. The election officials explained to them that only those listed for that polling area were allowed to vote. The police officer intervened by warning everyone that anyone falsifying their identities will be arrested and locked up. The relative of the two women who were turned away from voting argued with the scrutineers, the election officials, and the policeman.
The false identity and eligible voters discovering their names were not on the common roll were only the tip of the iceberg in this election. At the UPNG campus some drunk students intimated voters at the polling site and voters were double voting in different sites were some of the shocking narratives of people on that day.
Further disappointment was that some of the voters living in the area of voting for as long as I have been around did not have their names on the common roll. I know it must be a disappointment to them as well for finding out that their names were not listed for voting. The reasons for this to happen are beyond me to explain in this column. Since voting began a compound of election related problems began to emerge all over the country. This election will go down in history as one of the most challenging experience to election officials, the candidates, and the voters. Whatever the outcome is for this election we hope the formation of a new government takes place without any eminent constitutional crisis.
The best thing about voting is that a greater sense of purpose and participation in the political process is realized. A concrete sense ofcitizenry is exercised with the consciousness that one single vote makes a difference in the kind of leadership a nation desires. A vote counted towards a collective goal and purpose is the ultimate expression of nation building. There is in that expression the realization that the leader who gets elected to parliament is a manifestation of the people’s imagined community.
It is now up to the elected leaders to realize that the values of serving others before oneself must prevail to the extent that they seek divine wisdom in all decision making situations. As leaders they must shed all individualistic sentiments and various kinds of juvenile politicking for matured, conscientious, and ethical conducts in carrying out his or her mandated duties and responsibilities as political leaders as provided in the Organic Law on Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership. Elected leaders are expected to rise above the fray, to deliver their verdict on what is good for the people and not for self-pontification that comes with insatiable appetite for power.
Voters do not enter the threshold of power. It is the elected leaders who reach that threshold where power beckons a leader to taste its sweet nectar. Political power entices its newly elected members, soothes the pain of yesteryear’s politicking of those returning to parliament, and reinvigorates those who were already inducted into the hall of fame in PNG politics.
In the minds of everyone who voted or were voted the formation of a new government begins with the knowledge that an elected leader must shed the old clothes for new ones in order to become a representative of the people. In the next few weeks the elected leaders must decide who they align with in securing the right to rule.
We exercised the most fundament element of democracy in voting our leaders and our parliament. It is now the job of our leaders to take us to where we want to go in the next phase of our lives in this free and independent country.
It is hoped the new parliament is fresh, fair, and balanced in all aspects. I do hope that both young and old leaders work together to take us further. By the same token I do hope that a good number of women have become part of the new parliament. Our vote is for change in the political, social, and economic landscapes of our country.
A final point that needs to be stressed before the formation of a new government is that a new attitude in governance must guide our leaders. The questions to answer are: What kind of future will I shape in the next five years? What kind of legacy will I leave after the next five years? The burden of the voters is on the shoulders of the leaders.
The democracy we have enjoyed so far made us voted. Leaders must continue to uphold the spirit of democracy for everyone. God Bless this beautiful country.