Sunday, March 21, 2021

Women’s Mentoring and Awareness Program in the Western Highlands, 2020

By Emmanuel Pok Communicating with women leaders based in the Western Highlands Province was a challenge for the Registry, as there is no women’s representative in the Provincial Assembly since 2017. For unknown reasons the appointment of women’s representative to the Provincial Assembly has taken almost 3 years. Regardless of the communication barrier with the Provincial Government, the Registry used its existing local contact to give out notices and invitations to women leaders to attend the first women’s mentoring program. The Registry of Political Parties have conducted election observations for both National and Local Level Government and did some party awareness in the province, so those existing contact were used to draw women in the province to attend.
The conference room at the McRoyal Hotel was filled to capacity with women leaders and members of various women led associations. We were astonished by the attendance, and the content of information shared by the women leaders that attended. Women spoke freely about the challenges they face every day, which are common to other provinces, but they also gave testimony of the positive developments that are happening in their women’s groups and associations that needs support and further assistance.
Our program started at 9:30 am with morning tea, and continued until about 2:15pm when we had a combined afternoon tea and lunch before closing the program. Our registry at the entrance recorded a total of 179 women in attendance, but we had some women that came in late and stood outside and listened to what we were discussing. We have observed that the interest was so overwhelming, unlike other provinces that we have delivered similar program. We noticed that women from Western Highlands have organized themselves and attended the program according to their established sectors or societies, for instance the president of the provincial nurses association who has a political ambition brought with her 7 nurses to the meeting. We were surprised that nearly one third of those attended we from the Women in Business Association, subsidiary to that association were smaller groups like the women in coffee, the flower garden and city cleaning group. We had a radical group of women from Faith based association, they were very vocal in the meeting and advocated for the government to recognize the God given potential and talents women have at the national scene. There is a ‘Women in Politics’ association that still exists in the province. The president a, Ms. Maggie Numdi said the association was established during the tenure of Dame Carol Kidu when she was the Minister for Community Development. She said the association still exists despite lack of support and recognition from the Government and relevant NGOs. We were privileged to have some business women who shared their success stories that motivated other women as well.

Discussions

After the opening prayer by a female pastor, Mr. Pok introduced the team and made clear the rationale of the program and its expected outcomes. He gave a detailed background of the nationwide ‘Women’s Mentoring and Awareness program as an initiative of the Registry of Political Parties that is well supported by the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nation Women’s Program (UNWomen).
Because of the time factor, Mr. Pok asked only women leaders of each association/group to introduce herself and the nature of her association’s business. He also asked women leaders who stood for past elections or want to stand for elections in the future to introduce themselves as well. He explained, that this is a public forum to get introduced to women leaders who are ready to take on political leadership, so they should feel free to come out and talk. After knowing and fully understanding the theme of the program, every women in the conference hall wanted to give their piece of thought about women in politics.
After all the introductions, Mr. Pok did a power point presentation with the topic “Awareness on Women Political Participation and Representation”. The presentation gave an overview of women’s engagement in national politics before and after the 2017 national elections in Papua New Guinea. He briefly gave some statistics on how women candidates polled in the national elections and how they can engage themselves meaningfully with political parties to gain support and contest future elections. In his presentation he highlighted some very important initiative taken by the Registry of Political Parties to legislate the participation of women in Politics after the women’s reserved seat bill failed. He made reference to the revised OLIPPAC and explained on the 20% quota and the anticipated impact this section of the law would have when it gets passed.
Mr. Pok made it clear that women and children’s voices are not represented in Parliament as there is no women MP elected after the 2017 elections. A very important pillar of democracy, “equal representation” is absent. He reiterated that women represents half of PNG’s population and them not represented in parliament is a sad situation in our democracy. He encouraged women to organize themselves and mobilize their resources in unity to support women who have leadership qualities that are willing to contest elections.

Some of the key points presented apart from those mentioned above are:
• Roles and Responsibilities of IPPCC and the OLIPPAC
• How to be a member of a political party and its importance
• Contact address of political parties
• Collecting Women leader’s profile and the expected outcome, an initiative of IPPCC and UNDP
The session also gave the opportunity for the women to ask questions to the team. Alot of issues were raised during the session. Some included; election administration, cultural barriers, financial, security, political parties including the issue of the Reserve Seats. Mr Pok briefly outlined the reasons why this bill was shelved. He also highlighted the Registry’s work in promoting women’s participation in elections especially the idea of the proposed 20% quota by political parties should the Revised Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates Commission (OLIPPAC) be passed in this parliament term. Many women welcomed the idea. The interaction and discussion amongst women participants opened the avenue to have a continued dialogue through a committee that they proposed to form after the team leaves.
Many women acknowledged that this program empowered them to now participate meaningfully through this democratic process of electing good leaders in particular women leaders. They also took the time to acknowledge the importance of this activity and thanked the Registry and its partners for bringing this program to their level.

Central Province Governor Visits the Registry of Political Parties

By William Garena The Registry of Political Parties was delighted to welcome Governor for Central Province Honourable Robert Agarobe, who paid a courtesy visit to the office on 4th February 2021. It was a first for such a visit by Governor Agarobe since being elected into office in the 2017 National General Elections. Governor Agarobe was accompanied by his electoral staff Mr Leonard Tale and met with the Registrar Dr Alphonse Gelu and some staff of the Registry.
It was great to see a national leader such as the Governor in taking time out to visit state agencies such as the Registry of Political Parties to talk about national issues that were affecting the country’s development. The flow of discussions was more informal and open where major discussion points focused on issues of governance but more specifically, on our political system and how it affected our system of government. Governor Agarobe believed that having workable systems in place contributed towards a strong and reliable political system that contributed to having an effective government.
During the meeting the Central Governor raised some specific issues closely related to our system of government. This issues were of great national interest that included votes of no confidence, government formation, direct election of the Prime Minister, roles of MPs in service delivery and strengthening of the political party system. He stressed that by addressing these issues, this could help improve and strengthen the current political system to enable an effective system of government. A brief mention was also made about developmental issues relating closely to land and natural resources which the Central Provincial Government is looking at addressing through their soon to be launched provincial development plan called the “Smart Plan”.
On that note, the Registrar continued the discussions by informing Governor Agarobe on the efforts of the Registry in promoting and strengthening the political party system since 2018. This included work on areas such as the direct election of the Prime Minister, a desk-top study on the electoral/voting system, women’s political participation and representation in Parliament, and the overall promotion of democracy in the country. Copies of concept notes for the work on the areas mentioned above, together with a short brief was prepared and submitted to the Office of the Central Governor for his perusal. Concerns were also raised with Governor Agarobe of funding support from the National Government which has not been forthcoming towards implementing key programs of the Registry.
Towards the end of the discussions, a request was made to Governor Agarobe by the Registrar to bring to the attention of the Government, Parliament and the Prime Minister important issues that included: the passage of the Revised Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC) Bill; release of adequate funding to allow the Registry in strengthening the political party system and prepare political parties for the 2022 National Elections; to assist the Registry to promote women in politics; and to recognise and give more prominence to the Registry of Political Parties as a lead state agency in political reform agendas and discussions on national issues that are of interest to our National Leaders and the country as a whole.
The short visit by Honourable Robert Agaraobe proved fruitful and that important issues concerning national interest was discussed in a more open and informal manner. Before taking his leave, Governor Agarobe assured the Registrar that he would relate the Registry’s request that required the Government’s support. The Registry invites and welcomes any of our National Leaders to visit the office and is open to hosting discussions of significant national interest and discussions related closely to promoting and strengthening political parties in Papua New Guinea.

Key Features of Revised Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates Commission (OLIPPAC) Bill

Some of the Key features that is highlighted in the revised Organic Law on Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates
Key Features of Revised OLIPPAC Bill
1) rules for the registration of political parties;
2) to provide for specific processes for registration of new political parties, reregistration of existing political parties and deregistered or cancelled political parties; and
3) improved monitoring and management of political parties;
4) more professional conduct of executives and members of political parties;
5) increase the discipline of members of political parties; and
6) impose fines and penalties on political parties and executives of political parties when they break the rules.
7) to provide for clear political party policies and ideologies that must be different from each other; and
8) to provide for political parties to fully support their candidates by endorsing, nominating and supporting them; and
9) to provide for the salaries and allowances of the Executives of political parties; and
10) to provide for fair representation and opportunity for women’s participation in politics; and
11) to provide for political parties and independent candidate’s listings to be submitted to the Registry; and
12) to provide for political party dispute resolutions to be dealt with in party constitution; and
13) to provide for the process of invitation to form government as the responsibility of the Registrar; and
14) to provide for the need for the Registry to have investigative and prosecution powers.

Women’s Mentoring and Awareness in East Sepik Province

By William Garena A team from the Registry of Political Parties visited East Sepik Province on the 24th - 26th November 2020 to do awareness on political parties and mentoring for women leaders. This was a key activity for 2020 and is part of the Registry’s program on supporting women’s political representation through political parties. With funding support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), this activity together with similar activities in Milne Bay, Western Highlands and Jiwaka was able to be accomplished.
The purpose of the visit was to educate women in East Sepik about political parties and why political parties are important in our democracy. The visit also encouraged women to be members of the 46 political parties currently registered, and how parties could support them in terms of their aspirations towards getting elected into Parliament. Another purpose of the visit was to create a forum for women to engage in political dialogue and for the Registry to identify possible women candidates for the 2022 National Elections, and to prepare them through mentoring in terms of campaign strategies during the course of 2021.
The Team comprised of team leader Mr. William Garena, Mr. Solomon Puana, Ms. Marie Fraghi and Mr. Pepena Amona who began their visits in Wewak under Wewak Urban LLG, Kambagora ward under Wewak Rural LLG, and finally Tangori ward under Numbo LLG. Throughout the visits the Team was supported by Administration Officer for the East Sepik Provincial Council of Women Ms. Norah Kapari, who acted as a resource person and liaised with women leaders from Passam and Kubalea to meet with the Team. The Team took time out to pay a courtesy visit to NBC East Sepik to talk briefly on Radio about political parties, and the purpose and objectives of the Registry’s activity on Women’s Mentoring and Awareness on Political Parties in the province.
In the respective visits, membership forms for people wishing to join political parties were distributed to interested participants. A total of 48 membership forms were collected from a total of 107 participants. Just over 50 percent of the number of participants for all the visits were mostly females as the program emphasised on women however a significant number of males turned up for the meetings particularly at Kambagora and Tangori. Females made up 61 percent of the total number of party membership forms. National Alliance Party had the highest composition of membership from the party membership forms with 13 members showing interest followed by PANGU Pati and PNG Party with 7 members signing up respectively. The collected party membership forms will be given to the respective political parties to make contact with their new members once the Team returns to Port Moresby. Forms for interested women candidates were distributed as well however only 1 female from Wewak was identified to contest the 2022 National Elections.During the visits the impact of the program was immediate where participants were grateful because it gave female participants more confidence in overcoming challenges in contesting elections in the national and sub-national levels. Also participants felt empowered to share the knowledge gained on political parties with neighbouring communities and assured the Registry of their efforts in organising their own awareness through the different ward members.
As a key feature of the visit participants from the respective locations raised pertinent issues in which the Team noted. This included the following: there is a great lack of coordination between the Provincial Women Rep. and the Provincial Council of Women despite the fact that the Provincial Council of Women has 23, 000 registered women; there is a great need for political parties to come out to the rural communities and make themselves known in terms of their party policies and what they stand for; much needed party support to women and youths at the grassroots level through membership enlisting and candidate recruitment; inadequate funding to support appointed women, youth and church reps in the Provincial Assembly which has been an ongoing issue for several years.
Finally, the 3 days visit to East Sepik province proved fruitful and the Team was satisfied with the feedback from participants in the respective locations that the Team visited although the entire province was not covered. From the visit it was evident that more work is needed in the area of awareness on political parties in the rural communities and how political parties can act as pathways for women to be elected into the National Parliament. This would mean that there is a dire need for adequate funding by the National Government to support the Registry in promoting women’s political participation and representation through political parties.

Political Parties and Candidates – The Relationship and the Importance.

By Solomon Puana
Political parties and candidates are key political actors in the election process. Political parties are made up of individuals (members/candidates) who share a common interest or belief in the development of the community and the country.
Candidates who stand for public office are members of political parties or as independents which defines a candidate’s interest/belief and policy position while reflecting a list of issues with which the electorate can identify based upon a political party platform as mirrored in the candidate’s election promises to the public. Candidates represent a party platform or independent platform and with the help and the support of their political parties and supporters, they stand for election, carry out election campaigns, and try to gain support of the people to vote for them.
Political parties and candidates are also political actors that have the potential to be a negative force in the election process. Corrupt practices such as vote-buying, bribery, accusing and defaming of other candidates characters and standing during campaigning, forcing people to vote for a candidate and corruption in election-related decision-making are all examples of where political parties and candidates threaten the functioning of democratic systems rather than support it.
Number of Candidates endorsed by parties from 2002 to 2017 elections:
• 2002 Elections: According 2002 election records 2870 candidates stood for 103 seats. Note: Six electorates in the Southern Highlands Province were declared failed elections by the Electoral Commission. Supplementary elections were held again in May-April in 2003.
• 2007 Elections: A total of 2759 candidates nominated for the 109 seats; just over half of these (1478) stood as independents and 1285 were party endorsed candidates. There were 2658 male candidates and 103 female candidates.
• 2012 Elections: At the time of the 2012 elections a record 46 political parties were registered under the OLIPPAC, 42 of which endorsed candidates in the election. Fifteen of these were new parties. Only 1250 of the 3428 candidates represented political parties: the election saw a high percentage of independent candidates, with 2185 standing as independents.
• 2017 Elections: A total of 45 political parties were registered at that time. According to the official nominations listing by the PNG Electoral Commission 2017, only 31 political parties contested the 2017 general election by fielding candidates while 14 political parties did not endorse any candidates at all. Table below shows the number of candidates endorsed by Political Parties since 2002 – 2017 elections.

Meeting with Transparency International (PNG).

By Solomon Puana The Registry of Political Parties has been a key partner to the Transparency International – Papua New Guinea (TIPNG) as it has continuously offered its technical assistance to TIPNG’s work on the parallel report on the country’s implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC).
The UNCAC was adopted in 2003 and was enforced in 2005 and is the first legally binding anti-corruption agreement applicable on a global basis. Under the UNCAC, all member states of governments are to provide a report or review on the implementation and fulfilment of obligations on a multi-year periodic basis. The TIPNG has been engaged by the UNCAC Coalition to provide the parallel report on behalf of the PNG Government to ensure accountability and transparency of the review process.
On Wednesday 24th February 2021, the Registry met with TIPNG’s Representative, Mr. Yambari Haihuie who is the Deputy Director Partnerships and Policy. The meeting was held in Pala Conference Room at the Office of the Registry of Political Parties. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and complete a set of questions in line with Article 7 and 8 of the UNCAC which Papua New Guinea acceded to in 2007. The Registry was identified has one of the key agencies to the UNCAC report as its mandate and work meets the objectives of Article 7 and 8 of the UNCAC which relates to political financing. Other relevant agencies will also be interviewed for their views to finalize the report and published.

Women’s Mentoring & Awareness on Political Parties Program in Milne Bay Province.

By Solomon Puana
Women in Alotau
The Registry of Political Parties has taken on board the issue of women in political leadership. After the 2017 National Election, the Registry made a commitment and that was to support and promote Women in Political Leadership through its awareness program on Political Parties. In November 2020, the Registry began implementations by conducting the first pilot project on Women’s Mentoring and Awareness on Political Parties program with the support of United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Women in selected areas of Milne Bay Province based on the size of LLGs and population. The following areas included Alotau in the Alotau Urban LLG, Samarai Ward in Bwanabwana LLG and Taupota Ward in the Maramatana LLG.
The focus of the program was for the Registry of Political Parties to educate and empower women leaders who intend to contest the 2022 national and the LLG elections and at the same time to inform them about the roles and importance of political parties in any democracy like Papua New Guinea. The first official program was held at Alotau International Hotel, Bagi Conference Center with an attendance of 32 women and only 1 man. The second program was held on the Island of Samarai of Bwanabwana LLG in the Samarai-Murua District which had a good turnout, at least 20 women and 3 men in attendance. The final program was conducted at Taupota in the Maramattana LLG. We had about more than 20 people (20 women and 5 men) who attended and participated. It was good that of the 5 men, the current and former Ward Councilors were present during the awareness.
Women in Taupota
During the entire awareness program, there were issues and concerns raised in relation to women in political leadership and these included: Lack of support by political parties to women candidates in terms of logistics and finances; lack of women support; lack of funding to women representatives at the sub-national and this has been a big issue and challenge; and lack of presents of political parties in the districts.
Women in Samarai
Despite the issues and concerns raised many people especially the women folks commended the work Registry was doing in terms of supporting and promoting women. Many have expressed similar views by saying that the program has given them confidence and they now know exactly what to expect and strategies how to overcome challenges. Beside this membership forms were distributed to interested individuals who wanted to join a political party and a total of 41 memberships where collected. Also the Team had four interested women leaders who intend to contest the 2022 elections got registered by filling in the registration forms.