State advises EC to proceed with LLG elections

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato has been advised by the State, through the Solicitor General and Minister for Justice and Attorney General, Alfred Manase, to go ahead with the LLG elections by accepting nominations.

“The department (through the Solicitor General) has advised that the order that was given by the Supreme Court was against the Electoral Commissioner however, the authority to issue the writ is vested by the organic law upon the Minister for Provincial and Local level Government Affairs,” Attorney General Manase said in Port Moresby.

“So last week Thursday, in accordance with the Constitutional process, Minister for Provincial Affairs, who is vested with the authority to issue the writ, had already issued the writ, and the writ is in force,” he added.

“There has been no stay by the Supreme Court on the authority of the Minister for Provincial Affairs to issue the writ, and so the writ is now in force.”

He explained that on the basis of that, the Supreme Court injunction does not apply on the Minister for Provincial Affairs.

“So the Department has advised the Electoral Commissioner on that basis, where the order was targeted at the Electoral Commissioner from issuing the writ, when as a matter of constitutional law, the Electoral Commission does not issue the writ.”

Manase said the department has advised the Electoral Commission to ensure that the constitutional process is respected and that Gamato proceeds on that basis to get all returning officers to accept nominations across the country.

“It is up to the Electoral Commissioner to comply with the writ and ensure the electoral process for the LLG is completed within the time specified under the writ.”

Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato this morning told Loop PNG that he cannot defy court orders issued by the Supreme Court.

“The matter is still in court and the Supreme Court has made that order, so all of us will have to respect the Supreme Court order.

“We’ll have to go back through the normal process in court, and ask the court to hear our application and decide from there.

“I cannot go ahead to allow my officer to accept nominations because I’ll be in breach of the court order. I cannot defy the court order,” Commissioner Gamato added.

He still intends to go to court to set aside the orders and will await further advice from lawyers for the Electoral Commission.

The Solicitor General last Friday filed an application in the Supreme Court reference, (case filed by the Ombudsman Commission), to ask the court to set aside the order.

Last Thursday (April 25th), the Supreme Court issued an interim order, stopping the Electoral Commission from issuing any writs for the Local Level Government Elections.   

The ruling was handed down in court an hour after Minister for Inter Government Relations, Kevin Isifu, officially signed the writs for the elections.

In compliance with the court orders, the Electoral Commission issued a statement advising Operation Managers, the Election Manager and Returning officers not to accept any nominations until the Supreme Court order is set aside or an appeal is filed to clear the matter.

On April 25, the Supreme Court issued orders, temporarily stopping the Electoral Commission from issuing and conducting the LLG elections, until the question referred to the Supreme Court by the Ombudsman Commission regarding the delay in the 2012 and 2017 LLG elections of more than three months, are determined. 

While those questions are yet to determine by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika was of the view the balance of continence favoured a grant of stay. 

If the Electoral Commission went ahead with the LLG elections and the Supreme Court later rules the past deferral was invalid, it would be a waste of resources as LLG elections will be declared null and void.

The reference will return to court on May 10.  

(Filepic: Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato)

Sally Pokiton