Australia concerned at PNG election delay

Australia urged Papua New Guinea to reconsider a decision to delay national elections but stopped short of calling for sanctions.

Papua New Guinea's parliament voted Thursday to postpone the polls for six months, with Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah reportedly warning Canberra against intruding on the election process.

"To see elections suspended by six months is very disappointing," Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Friday.

"We hope the decision will be reviewed and it's premature to talk about sanctions. There's some time to go before we have that on the agenda."

The Australian government, which had previously cautioned against delaying the elections which were due to be held in June, was "disappointed and concerned" at the move, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement Thursday.

Gillard said Canberra had received previous assurances from PNG's government that the elections would be held on time and hoped it would now "give this decision further consideration."

Politics in PNG have been in turmoil since late 2011 when the Supreme Court ruled Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's rise to power -- via a parliamentary vote while then-leader Sir Michael Somare was recovering from illness in Singapore -- was illegal.

Somare, who has dominated politics in his country for decades, believes he is still the leader of the Pacific nation of 6.6 million people, and fresh elections were viewed as a way of resolving the dispute for good.

PNG's parliament decided Thursday that elections would be suspended for six months, with Namah reportedly saying they had to be delayed to ensure security in the volatile Southern Highlands and due to incomplete electoral rolls.

But Gillard said Canberra had provided "substantial practical support to enable elections to proceed as scheduled", including 30 Australian Civilian Corps personnel to PNG's electoral commission and an air support mission.

Australia rankled its northern neighbour in March when Carr said Canberra would "be in the position of having to consider sanctions" if PNG failed to hold democratic elections in mid-2012.

"We'd have no alternative but to organise the world to condemn and isolate Papua New Guinea," Carr told Sky News at the time, before backtracking on his comments.

In a speech to parliament Thursday, Namah warned Australia not to threaten PNG, an impoverished Pacific country on the cusp of a resources boom which is expected to double its GDP within 30 years.

"Whatever Mr Bob Carr says about sanctions, I want to say this: do not threaten the independence of this country," Namah said, the ABC reported.

Carr said Friday Australia respected PNG's independence and did not want to seem to be interfering, but it was a "bad habit" to delay elections.

"We respect their sovereignty but we've got a commitment to seeing the countries in this region stick by a democratic formula."

  • COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more 3 hours ago
    COMMENT: Xenophobia rears its ugly head in Singapore once more

    Kirsten Han is a Singaporean blogger, journalist and filmmaker. She is also involved in the We Believe in Second Chances campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty. A social media junkie, she tweets at @kixes. The views expressed are … Continue reading →

  • Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future 5 hours ago
    Driving a $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder to the future

    It’s more than just its inherent speed, or the whooshing noise that fills the cabin like a school choir jamming with James Hetfield. It’s what it represents in an industry full of skeptics. It’s a portal into the future – a time capsule left by some mad scientist born decades too soon. It’s something that shouldn’t exist. And yet it does.

  • 919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day 7 hours ago
    919 reasons to love: Flickr photo of the day

    We've brought you the drive video of the $900,000 Porsche 918 Spyder -- an 887-hp hybrid supercar with two electric motors working in harmony with a big 4.6-liter V-8. But how about this? Porsche's hybrid Le Mans racer -- the 919 Hybrid, sent to us by Kevin Leech. Get on board with electrification, folks. Because it's taking over the world.

  • Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers
    Singaporeans slam NEA's $120 licence requirement for tissue sellers

    Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence.

  • Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry
    Heartbreaking texts from students on sinking S. Korea ferry

    Heart-wrenching messages of fear, love and despair, sent by high school students from a sinking South Korean ferry, added extra emotional weight Thursday to a tragedy that has stunned the nation. Nearly 300 people -- most of them students on a high school trip to a holiday island -- are still missing after the ferry capsized and sank on Wednesday morning. Mom, I love you," student Shin Young-Jin said in a text to his mother that was widely circulated in the South Korean media.

  • Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name
    Indonesia’s armed forces chief says “no apology” for warship’s name

    General Moeldoko, the head of Indonesia’s Armed Forces, has clarified that he had not apologised for the naming of a warship after two Indonesian marines who had been involved in the 1965 MacDonald House bombing in Singapore.