Prime Minister Hon. James Marape has called for peace and order to prevail as the 2022 General Election begins tomorrow (Thursday May 12) with opening of nominations.
He thanked the Australia Government for assisting Papua New Guinea with safe and secure printing and delivery of ballot papers, and the Indian Government for supplying the indelible ink for voters.
A total 118 seats will be contested for, including seven new ones recently passed by Parliament.
PM Marape said voters, especially women, must be allowed to vote on their own conscience and must not be coerced into voting for a particular candidate.
He reminded the people, on the eve of the 2022 elections, that life imprisonment is now the maximum penalty for illegal usage and ownership of firearms. The Prime Minister has instructed Police to monitor hotspots known for usage of guns during the 2022 elections.
He recently tabled the Firearms Amendment Bill 2022 in Parliament, unanimously supported by all MPs, for life imprisonment for unlawful possession of firearms.
Life imprisonment is now the maximum penalty for:
- Manufacturing of homemade guns;
- Illegal ownership and possession of firearms;
- Illegal possession and use of firearms;
- Illegal possession of prohibited firearms; and
- Ownership and possession of machine guns.
PM Marape said the country had seen enough of illegal firearms issues, including in the 2017 General Election when there were several gun-related deaths, and added there would be zero tolerance this time.
“I remind people on the eve of elections that life imprisonment is now the maximum penalty for illegal possession of firearms,” he said.
“Candidates should tell their supporters, and themselves, not to have illegal guns in their possession.
“Supporters, youth leaders and others are reminded that you could be jailed for life for being in illegal possession of firearms.
“Illegal possession of guns no longer carries a maximum term of 10 or 20-years imprisonment, but life imprisonment, so I appeal to all citizens to be mindful of this.
“Is it worth spending the rest of your life in prison for being illegally in possession of a gun and supporting your candidate?
“I encourage those in illegal possession of firearms to throw them away now, because if Police catch you, you will get life imprisonment
PM Marape said there would be several reforms in the elections this year.
“For purposes of transparency, we will have Transparency International, National Research Institute and civil society representation in the Elections Planning Committee,” he said.
“We will have separate voting queues for men and women to cast their votes without undue influence, as in the past. It is the right of voters to make their choice based on their God-given wisdom – not on inducements, bribery, cash, food, wantok system or hype
“We will have CCTV used for counting to make the elections fair and friendly for all.
“We will use metal boxes in the Highlands.
“There will be no voting on Sundays or Sabbath (Saturday).”
PM Marape also said that severe penalties would be imposed on election officials who engaged in “improper and illegal conduct” during elections.
“There will be severe penalties for election officials engaged in corrupt practices at polling places,” he said.
“We have seen recently the imprisonment of a returning officer recently, on allegations of receiving bribes during the 2017 elections, which shows clearly to all that laws are there to prosecute those who engage in such illegal practices.
“A vote is the sanctified responsibility of each individual to cast his or her vote for a leader, who they feel will represent them in Parliament.
“It’s a high calling of each individual and must not be tampered by an ineffective process or corrupt election officials, campaign managers and officials, or candidates themselves.”