Court: Resume counting in Mt Hagen

Counting for the Southern Highlands Regional seat is to resume today in Mt Hagen, the court ruled.

The Waigani National Court on Tuesday afternoon ruled that counting must resume in Mt Hagen, and not Goroka, due to distance and the cost involved in moving ballot boxes as well as scrutineers of candidates from Mendi.

The court also ordered that all counting officials from Mendi must be used in the counting in Mt Hagen, as they already started the electoral process.  

Justice Collin Makail ordered that the newly appointed Returning Officer, Steven Gore Kaupa, who was appointed on August 9, resume counting today and proceed to a declaration soon.

The orders were issued after a candidate, Sylvester Komba, filed the case on August 11 against the Electoral Commission and Southern Highlands Election Manager David Wakias.

Counting has prolonged for this seat for over two weeks now due to disturbances from supporters and scrutineers in Mendi.

Ballot boxes were moved to the Mt Hagen Police station and locked up there due to security reasons.

Counting was moved to Mt Hagen the previous weekend but did not resume because police refused to provide security.

The court was told counting was to be held at the Kimininga police barracks however, police personnel were organising funeral arrangements for the two police officers who were shot in Wabag.

The Electoral Commission’s lawyer Alice Kimbu told the court that counting was to resume today at the National Sports Institute in Goroka today however, could not provide evidence in the form of affidavit or statements from her client before the court.

Last week, the Western Highlands Provincial Election Steering Committee came out in the media saying they were not consulted by the Electoral Commissioner before moving ballot boxes to Hagen for counting.

(File picture of ballot boxes used in the highlands region during election)

Sally Pokiton