Commissioner forced to relocate SHP counting

The killing of three men in Mendi last week has forced the Electoral Commissioner to relocate the counting of the Southern Highlands Provincial Seat to Mt Hagen.

The ballot boxes were transported to Mt Hagen under tight security escort over the weekend.

Provincial Elections Manager, Jacob Wakias, in a press conference in Mt Hagen yesterday told the media that the Election Commissioner has directed him to change the venue.

Southern Highlands was the second province in the country to go for polling after Hela. Declarations of its five districts were completed successfully but the counting for the provincial seat is still going on.

The primary counts and the quality checks have been completed. And as preparations for the elimination was about to proceed; the Electoral Commissioner advised Wakias to relocate the counting venue from Mendi to Mt Hagen.

This was after three men were killed and few others hospitalised in an election related violence last Friday between the supporters of the candidates.

Wakais told the media that the ballot boxes have been moved over to Mt Hagen over the weekend and he is working around to find a location to complete the counting.

Wakias further pointed out that the declaration of the incumbent governor, William Powi, by former Provincial Election Manager Jacob Kurap, was seen as hijacking of the counting process.

He said Kurap declared Powi as Governor after count 84. Wakias said Powi did not reach the absolute majority and the Electoral Commissioner nullified the declaration done in Port Moresby.

Therefore he confirmed that a formal complaint was laid and police would arrest him.

Meantime, after the venue is relocated in Mt Hagen, the former Returning Officer for Ialibu Pangia, Michael Ariando, who was appointed as the Provincial Returning Officer, would conduct the elimination process soon.

The ballot boxes are now in a container at Mt Hagen Police Station under tight security.

(Loop file pic)

Salome Vincent