SHP counting cannot be failed: Gamato

Elections for the Southern Highlands Provincial Seat cannot be failed, says Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

“Section 81(3) of the Organic Law on National and Local-level Government Elections gives the power to the Electoral Commissioner to make or allow extension.”

Gamato was responding to calls on him to declare the Southern Highlands Provincial Seat elections as “failed” and for supplementary elections to be held since counting hasn’t been completed after the first sitting of the new Parliament three weeks ago.

He explained that counting for the Southern Highlands Provincial Seat was recently ordered by Court to be conducted in Mt. Hagen.

“PNGEC made preparations in the Eastern Highlands capital, Goroka, as a neutral venue but some Southern Highlands Provincial candidates went to court and asked the Court to have counting done in Mt. Hagen,” said Gamato.

“Because of the decision by National Court, we (PNGEC) are now working to move the SHP Provincial count back to the Western Highlands capital, Mt. Hagen.”

Gamato confirmed that the Election Manager for Eastern Highlands, Steven Gore Kaupa, has been appointed as the Provincial Returning Officer to oversee the continuation and completion of the Southern Highlands Provincial count.

Meanwhile, the National Court has put a hold on the return of writ for Kundiawa-Gembogl Open electorate and also ordered the counting of two disputed ballot boxes after lawyers for the former MP, Tobias Kulang, obtained a court order and asked for the count.

“The two disputed ballot boxes were not counted. I, as Electoral Commissioner, ordered the boxes to be counted. The Returning Officer did not count the two boxes during the counting and elimination processes.

“Because there is a standing court order, I cannot accept the writ for Kundiawa-Gembogl Open and return it to the Head of State.

“We will have to comply with the court order and count the two ballot boxes. Otherwise, I will be in contempt of the court order,” said Gamato.

(Loop file pic)

Press release