Electoral Commissioner clarifies re-arrest

The re-arrest of Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato yesterday (11/8/2020) has no connection with his substantive matter currently before the Waigani Committal Court.

Gamato was taken by police at the Waigani Committal Court premises straight after attending to his substantive matter in Court and escorted to Boroko Police Station, where he was interrogated for almost three hours before being formally charged.

He was charged with two counts of “interfering with a state witness” to his substantive matter Alwynn Jimmy, who is also a staff of Electoral Commission.  

The first charge relates to Commissioner’s revocation of Jimmy as returning officer for the recently held Menyamya by-election in Morobe Province.

The second charge relates to an official notification letter from Gamato to Jimmy notifying him one year ahead of his compulsory retirement age of 65 under the Public Service Management Act.

“My re-arrest yesterday has got nothing to do with my substantive matter currently before the Waigani Committal Court and therefore has no connection with interfering with state witnesses,” the Commissioner said in a statement.

“Revocation of Alwynn Jimmy and appointment of Nande Awape as returning officer for Menyamya by-election was an administrative process which I executed using powers conferred to me as Electoral Commissioner under the Organic Law on National & LLG Elections.”

Jimmy was appointed by Deputy Commissioner Corporate Services John Kalamoroh during Gamato’s leave of absence and in his capacity as Electoral Commissioner’s delegate.

“However, upon resumption of duty and by virtue of powers conferred to me under Section 19 of the Organic Law on National & LLG Elections and all other powers enabling me as Electoral Commissioner, I revoked the appointment of Mr. Jimmy and appointed Nande Awape as returning officer for Menyamya by-election.”

Gamato explained that Jimmy’s appointment was revoked as he was currently on the retrenchment list.

He added that Jimmy does not have the local knowledge of the geography of Menyamya, which is one of the most challenging electorates geographically in PNG to conduct elections.

“Nande Awape served Menyamya for over 20 years and was the returning officer in 2017 and did well to deliver the late Thomas Pelika as Member,” Gamato stated.

“Awape also did well in the 2019 LLG Elections and I have every confidence in him and reappointed him returning officer for Menyamya by-election.

“Further, there were no election petitions filed in the conduct of 2017 national election and 2019 LLG Elections for Menyamya under Nande Awape’s watch.”

With regards to the second charge, Gamato said it was his duty to officially notify staff who are 64 years old one year in advance as they approach the compulsory retirement age limit of 65, under the Public Service Management Act.

“As the chief executive officer of the organisation, I had to sign the letter prepared by our Human Resources Branch to facilitate the smooth exit of our staff who have reached 65 and Alwynn Jimmy is in this age group listed for retrenchment.”

Meanwhile, Gamato was released on a K1,000 bail last night.

His substantive matter at the Waigani Committal Court has been adjourned yesterday to August 26, 2020, as Police Prosecution team was not ready.

Gamato through his lawyers will make a no-case submission when the case returns on August 26.

Press release