CANBERRA Police in Australia and Papua New Guinea have shot dead a young mother at a polling station in the capital Port Moresby in the latest violence to mar national elections, a news release said on Friday. Homicide detectives are investigating Monday’s fatal shooting, a police statement said. Annaisha Max, 22, was hugging her one-year-old son when he was shot, the Australian Broadcasting Corp reported. “The police came with violence, too much force. It was unprovoked,” Emmanuel Kiangu, a community leader at the scene, told the ABC. According to Max’s friend Anna Koipová, the police were not alerted to the shooting.
“They didn’t even make a noise. They took their guns to the car and shot into the crowd where many of us were waiting to vote,” Koip said through an interpreter. Since voting began on July 4, fighting has flared between rival groups over allegations of voting. Prime Minister James Marape has apologized to thousands of people who were turned away at polling stations due to electoral problems. People were reportedly overwhelmed on Monday after waiting hours for voting to begin. A group gathered around the police cars and asked where the ballot boxes were. Police called in backup before the shooting began, ABC reported. Police Metropolitan Gideon Ikumu said in a statement on Tuesday that police reinforcements had been sent to “restore order when rioting and fighting by people threatened election officials with harm and disrupted polling stations”.
“Rocks were hurled at police and gunshots were fired to disperse the unruly crowd,” Ikumu added.
Ikumu said he had personally assured angry residents after Max’s death that a police investigation would “establish how the victim was killed and who was responsible for her death.”
“Homicide detectives are now collecting evidence including video footage and statements from potential witnesses,” Ikumu said.
Max died in an electorate where polling had been delayed three times.
Peter Aitsi, a Papua New Guinea representative for Transparency International, a global movement to end corruption, said the election risked failing.
“Unfortunately, it was not a successful, peaceful and safe election,” Aitis said. “But I call on all our stakeholders, especially the candidates and their supporters, to support the process and try to close the election as much as possible. Voting will take weeks and the composition of the new government – in which more than 50 parties are vying for 118 seats – will not be known until the next parliament in August. The main candidates to lead the new government are Marape and his successor Peter O’Neill, who resigned in 2019. Since Papua New Guinea’s independence from Australia in 1975, the country’s 9 million elections have been threatened by violence, fraud and corruption. At the start of voting, police urged citizens not to sell their votes to any of the 3,625 candidates running for the election. Papua New Guinea candidates often pay poor voters to vote for them.