PNG election boss Gamato gags name-calling anti-corruption activist

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato Source: Stefan Armbruster SBS

A Papua New Guinea court has gagged an anti-corruption campaigner after electoral commissioner Patilias Gamato complained he was defamed in critical social media posts that also likened him to a tomato.

Martyn Namorong has been a vocal critic on social media of the chaotic PNG national election currently under way and the electoral commissioner’s role.

A Commonwealth election observer report released earlier this week said “all aspects” of the election process needed to be reviewed.

The report highlighted “widespread” electoral roll discrepancies and said the observers were “disappointed” recommendations made after the 2012 election had not been implemented.

“Tomato speaks like a dragon! He must resign to uphold the credibility of the office he holds,” said Mr Namorong in one of numerous tweets in recent weeks.

Mr Gamato has previously rejected calls for him to resign.

In response to the gag order Mr Namorong said on Twitter: “Just heard I am being taken to court. Need a pro bono lawyer. #PNG #FreedomOfSpeech #Freedom”.

He followed with a tweeted picturing him wearing a gag: “Dear all, Since I have been restrained by the courts I will be tweeting this image daily until such time I am allowed to tweet freely #DAY1”.

Former prime minister and election candidate Sir Mekere Morauta criticised the gag order.

Image from @MartynNamorong on Twitter.

“Is Mr Gamato so thin-skinned? I have never seen anything written by Martyn that could be called offensive. Humorous, yes. To the point, also yes. That’s why Martyn’s tweets and quips are so popular,” Sir Mekere said in a statement.

"Surely Mr Gamato has more important things to do and better ways of spending state resources – like having a true Electoral Roll, running the election efficiently and on time, paying polling and counting officials, and speeding up the counting process – than using public money running to court like a spoilt child, running crying to Mummy."

LoopPNG reported the Waigani National Court granted an order that restrained Mr Namorong from “further publishing defamatory remarks the blogger made against Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato on Facebook and Twitter”.

“This case arises from alleged defamatory remarks the blogger made on social media associating Gamato to a fruit," the LoopPNG said.

“The urgent application was moved without Namarong (sic) in court because they could not locate him to serve the documents. The application was heard ex-parte.”

Justice Collin Makail ordered the case be heard in court again on Monday 25 July, the day after election writs are due to be returned.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr Gamato urged election officials to speed up the election count so all electorates could be declared by the deadline.

Mr Namorong is a writer, poet and civil society activist who regularly posts about corruption in the country.

During the election period he has appeared in local and international media, including on the ABC this week, to comment on the campaign and polling.

SBS World News has sought comment from both Mr Gamato and Mr Namorong.

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