Court: No by-Election for Hela

The Electoral Commission and the National Executive Council have failed to uphold section 50 of the Constitution by not holding a by-election after the office of the Hela Governor became vacant on April 28.

The Waigani National Court handed down its decision this afternoon on the case filed by Hela businessman Larry Andagali.

Andagali filed the case over the Electoral Commission’s delay in conducting a by-election for the Governor’s seat following the passing of the late Governor Anderson Agiru on April 28.

The court found and declared that the office of the Governor became vacant on April 28, however, it refused to order a by-election, four months on since the death of the late Agiru.

“An order for by-election is beyond the Court’s discretion,” Justice Collin Makail said this afternoon before a packed court room of Hela people.

During the trial hearing, Electoral Commissioner Patillias Gamato through an affidavit filed on Aug 11, outlined reasons for opposing the application filed by Andagali, which the court took note of.

One was the lack of funding availability to run the election. It would cost the Electoral Commission K9, 466,547 to run the by-election.

Gamato’s affidavit also said two letters sent to the Chief Secretary on May 24 and June 29 respectively requesting funding did not have responses to.

Another reason was the fact that there were eight months remaining until the issue of Writs for the next General Election in 2017 and that the Electoral Commission was focusing on updating the Common Roll.

Other reasons included security risks and the fact that holding a by-election is not allowed as it would fall within the 12 months period before the General Election 2017.

Justice Collin Makail in his decision today said funding is an internal administrative matter and that the responsibility rests with the Department of Finance and Treasury to provide the funds.

“If funding is not forthcoming, then it must be the case that the Electoral Commission has failed in its duty to comply with the Constitutional Provision under section 50 of the Constitution. Thus denying the applicant (Andagali) and the people of Hela right to vote and stand for public office.

“There is no evidence by the Chief Secretary to indicate when funds will be available. I am satisfied that the Electoral Commission failed to accord the applicant (Andagali) and the people of Hela reasonable opportunity to exercise their right to vote and stand for public office as guaranteed by the section 50 of the Constitution,” Justice Makail said.

He also added that the relief sought by Andagali to have the court order a by-election within seven days is a discretion of the court. The court refused this relief. 










Sally Pokiton