The last couple of weeks have been a very interesting journey for me as a sole female candidate in the Bougainville Regional Seat By-Election.
I haven’t written about my journey, but I feel I owe it to my voters, friends, supporters and family, plus anyone else who wants to know how the elections from campaigning, to polling, and counting went for me.
In one word AWESOME!
…until Monday when I started getting calls from women groups around the island asking me: ‘Ol vote blong mipla go we?’ (Where are our votes?).
There was also the question, ‘Why na ol meri Bougainville no votim displa wanpla meri candidate tasol? (Why haven’t the women of Bougainville not voted for this sole female candidate?) Answer: The majority of women who voted did vote for me. Not because I was the only female candidate, but because they agreed with my five platforms.
Now, the big question is; where are the votes? and why aren’t they showing on the tally board?
In Siwai, a group of more than 60 women, hired a truck and went to a particular polling venue to cast their votes for me (Box 14). As they said, ‘It’s time they all vote for a woman candidate.’
But when the tally came out I only got 14 votes from the whole constituency. Where are these womens’ votes? Women do not lie about their votes, especially mothers from women fellowship groups.
In Taonita Teop and Taonita Tinputz it was the same.
I didn’t mind until women called me up, or stopped our vehicle on the road to ask me, ‘ol vote blong mipla go we? Then came the church youth groups, asking the same question, and the ex-combatants.
I didn’t know how I could answer them because their votes never showed on the tally. I knew I had done a very good campaign in the Tinputz areas. In the places I couldn’t reach, the women, church groups and ex-combatants in the areas did the work there. However, their votes never showed.
The votes of my 300+ family members in Tinputz… The tally showed that I got very few votes from there as it seemed the two constituencies block voted for only one candidate.
Then I started to look at how the votes were tallied in each Region. In Central, when it came to boxes 75 –130, where South and North Nasioi areas are in (where I come from), the PNGEC & OBEC (Office of Bougainville Electrol Commission) staff coordinating the counting stopped doing a call out for our scrutineers who were supposed to know how many votes each candidate got in an area.
Then the PNGEC & OBEC staff just closed the counting, packed all the ballot boxes without letting our scrutineers know the final results. When the scrutineers enquired they gave excuses like, ‘there’s no marker pens to write the tally on the yellow canvas or, there’s no printer and ink.
So we followed them to the OBEC office only to be met with more excuses. From 2:30pm to 9:00pm we stood (in very heavy rain) there at the OBEC office waiting for some answers.
They put out the yellow canvas in front of the OBEC office and started jotting numbers down, then in the night they gave us a print out, which to our surprise, one of our candidates numbers exceeded all our numbers to 13 thousand plus votes – these are votes from just 55 ballot boxes. The rest of us collected Two thousand or less. I collected 1000+ votes from box 1 – 74, which are boxes not from my areas, but when it came to my home turf, I don’t know how the votes went. Because we candidates just got a print out telling us how many votes we got from Central votes. Now my family, friends and supporters are asking ‘Ol vote blong mipla go we?’
From South, my village in Nagovis there are less than 700 people. Voters would be 250 or less, but to my surprise, 1000+ votes came out from our box! I got some votes, but one particular candidate got more than 500 votes from that box! I know it was one day polling and half the people didn’t vote; So What’s happening?
Where did all these votes come from?
Now it has dawned on me. These are the same questions supporters of candidates in the last Autonomous Bougainville Government election were asking; ‘OL VOTE BLONG MIPLA GO WE?’ Candidates they voted for especially in the presidential and some special seats did not collect a single vote in their supporter’s areas.
Many people in some of these areas have shared their sentiments and I begin to wonder: ‘Is our electoral process transparent? Have the people’s votes been tampered with? Are our elected leaders voted into power in a transparent manner?
I’m not a judge.
I am a journalist and an excellent researcher. I work with evidence and data, and from what I’ve collected, there is something very fishy going on.
Remember, Bougainville is a small island and we have family and friends everywhere, and for them to come show me their painted fingers and tell me straight to my face that they voted for me but I got no votes from their particular boxes, especially in the West Coast areas, I ask again: ‘What is happening. Where are these peoples votes?’
People must know that majority of women in Bougainville did vote for me but where are their votes? Though it was one day polling and not many people voted, reports from presiding officers said, nearly all polling booths from North to South, more women went to vote than men.
I’m writing this piece. More will come because I know next year we will have another PNG National Election and I don’t ever want to hear voters asking the question ‘OL VOTE BLONG MIPLA GO WE?’
I trusted the system and the system failed my mothers, sisters and supporters.
‘…Whatever is hidden will be shouted on the roof tops.’ And the shouting has just begun.’
Llane Munau is an award-winning filmmaker. She and her siblings grew up on Bougainville during the 10 year long crisis. Her family chose to remain on the island where she was homeschooled by her parents.