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Australia assured PNG will go to the polls

22:09 Thu Mar 8 2012
AAP

Australia is not contemplating Papua New Guinea suspending the June 2012 elections and is focusing instead on ensuring the 36-year-old nation has the support it needs to run an effective poll.

Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles also says he has been assured by Peter O'Neill's government that the recent arrest of chief justice Sir Salamo Injia was not politically motivated.

Mr Marles arrived on Tuesday amid ongoing calls by deputy prime minister Belden Namah and other MPs to suspend the elections for 12 months, in what electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen says would be a breach of the constitution.

"Our focus at the moment is not contemplating the consequences of not holding them on time, but making sure the required (electoral) support is there," Mr Marles told AAP in Port Moresby on Thursday.

"We have made the observation that there would be a pretty significant impact to the international reputation of PNG if people acted beyond the constitution."

Australian high commissioner Ian Kemish last week made a highly publicised visit to the electoral commission to announce an additional 88 computers as well as support staff for the election body in preparation for the June poll.

Mr Kemish's visit came days after Mr Namah made a public appeal to the PM to hold off the election for 12 months to allow the government time to implement its polices.

He also said there was potential for fraud because the electoral roll is only sixty per cent complete.

While Mr O'Neill has made frequent public statements declaring a full, free and fair election in late June, parliament is expected to make a decision on March 20.

Mr Marles, who was recently given the role as parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs, says he has been assured by police the arrest of chief justice Sir Salamo Injia was not politically influenced.

Sir Salamo appeared in court for a mention on Wednesday after police arrested him on charges of perverting the course of justice during their investigation into his management of court funds.

Sir Salamo presided over the Supreme Court when it handed down its decision in December which said Mr O'Neill and his supporters acted unconstitutionally when they suddenly sacked incumbent PM Sir Michael Somare.

"Whilst these are matters that we are looking at very closely... these are at the end of the day matters for PNG," Mr Marles said.

"We have been assured this is the criminal justice system acting independently of the political system, as you would expect.

"We take those assurances at face value."