Decision on Hela governor seat today

The National Court is expected to hand down its decision on a motion filed by Komo-Margarima MP, Francis Potape, seeking interim orders to have the court recognise him as Hela Governor.

Justice Collin Makail of the National Court deferred that decision from Monday afternoon to this morning. Arguments in this case were heard on Aug 25.

The motion filed by Potape also seeks to restrain member Koroba-Lake Kopiagio, Philip Undialu, from acting as Governor.

Undialu was purportedly elected governor by the Provincial Assembly on the morning of July 5 at 10 o’clock while Potape was elected governor at 2pm the same day.

A Provincial Assembly meeting was conducted on June 28 in Hela. This meeting was adjourned to the afternoon of July 5.

 However on that day, the clerk of the Hela Provincial Assembly, Watson Ebela, chaired a meeting in the morning that elected Undialu as governor. Deputy Governor Thomas Potabe on that afternoon chaired another meeting that elected Francis Potape as governor.

Undialu remained as governor to maintain the status quo awaiting the decision today.

In a related matter, the court yesterday 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 yesterday afternoon before a packed courtroom of Hela people.

He said 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.

This was in 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.

Sally Pokiton