Court: Follow process, object ballot boxes first

Candidates have been told to follow the electoral process and object disputed ballot boxes to the respective returning officers before they run to the court seeking injunctive orders.

Justice Collin Makail, when dealing with a number of election-related matters, said most candidates overlook section 153 (a) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government elections when disputing ballot boxes during counting.

He told parties involved in two matters disputing ballot boxes in counting in the Hela regional seat, from Koroba-Lake Kopiago area, and the Lae Open seats, to go back, consult the respective returning officers and object the use of the disputed ballot boxes.

He said such cases should not take up the court’s time, especially when that process is still available to them to follow before running to the court.

For the case involving disputed ballot boxes from the Koroba-Lake Kopiago seat, Hela Regional seat candidate Dr. Hewali Hamiya filed an urgent application to ask the court to restrain 32 disputed ballot boxes from being counted.

At the time the matter went before the court, the Hela Regional Seat had 94 ballot boxes left for counting.

Dr Hamiya was trying to get the court to stop those 32 disputed boxes from being counted, alleging those boxes were filled out by Electoral Commission officials somewhere in Tari and were not taken from the designated polling area.

His lawyer wanted the court to issue orders against those boxes from being counted and remain locked up.

Justice Makail, in refusing orders sought, said the provision of section 153(a) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government elections remains unexhausted and parties must follow that first in disputing ballot boxes.

In the case involving the counting of ballot boxes in the Lae Open seat, Valentine Buri and 19 other candidates are disputing three ballot boxes which they want set aside and not counted.

They filed their application in Lae, which was transferred to Waigani. The court was informed that there are 38 ballot boxes for the Lae Open seat.

Their application was withdrawn after Justice Makail raised the same points as both applications were similar.

Sally Pokiton