Obura-Wonenara petition dismissed

An election petition disputing the re-election of Mehrra Minne Kipefa as Obura-Wonenara’s MP has been dismissed by the National court because it was not competent to go for trial.

Justice Ambeng Kandakasi dismissed the petition on Monday afternoon at the Waigani National Court.

The petition filed by John Boito alleged acts of bribery committed by Kipefa, and errors, omissions and illegal practices by persons other than the winning candidate.

Before the trial could be heard, the court dealt with two motions, filed by Kipefa and the Electoral Commission, challenging the competency of the petition.

The objection was filed on two main grounds; failure by Boito to sufficiently plead or state each ground of the petition and attesting witness particulars also not sufficiently pleaded, to meet the requirement of section 208 of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections.

The court found all grounds of the petition incompetent to go for trial because they failed to meet the requirement of section 208 of the Organic Law.

The petition even failed to plead the correct address of the two attesting witnesses.  

According to section 208 (Requisites of Petition) of the organic law on National and Local Level Government Elections,

A petition shall–

(a) set out the facts relied on to invalidate the election or return; and

(b) specify the relief to which the petitioner claims to be entitled; and

(c) be signed by a candidate at the election in dispute or by a person who was qualified to vote at the election; and

(d) be attested by two witnesses whose occupations and addresses are stated; and

(e) be filed in the Registry of the National Court at Port Moresby or at the court house in any Provincial headquarters within 40 days after the declaration of the result of the election in accordance with Section 175(1)(a). 

For the bribery allegation, which could possibly invalidate an election if proven in court, Boito alleged Kipefa gave K3,000 cash after speaking to his supporters in Pinji village on 4 May 2017, alleging Rodney Sari and Waki Mesa received K13 and K2 respectively.

As a result, the petition stated Kipefa collected 387 first preference votes from Pinji village however, the court found the petitioner did not plead the correct provision of the Organic Law to support his allegation.

Justice Kandakasi said drafting court documents is a matter that requires special drafting knowledge and skills because it requires more care and attention being paid to the court rules on pleadings and the many case laws on point….many lawyers who are drafting election petition these days appear to ignore or deliberately fail to take note and plead appropriately.

“This has and is resulting in many possible good petitions with good and strong grounds such as bribery are being dismissed on competency grounds.

“The courts have no choice but dismiss petitions however serious the background and basis for the petition, if the petitions fail to comply with the mandatory requirements of section 208, because of the dictates of section 210 of the organic law.

“The latter precludes any petition from proceeding unless section 208 is complied with.

“If any fault is to be subscribed to anybody, that should be the lawyers who fail to get their clients’ pleadings and petition right in accordance with the requirements of section 208 as elaborated by the various Supreme and National Court judgments,” Judge Kandakasi added in his ruling.

(Mehrra Minne Kipefa filepic)

Sally Pokiton