Appeal over Hagen RO appointment dismissed

An appeal that was filed in the Supreme Court concerning the returning and assistant returning officers in the Hagen Open electorate has been dismissed.

This appeal was filed by James Yoka Ekip and Simon Sanagke.

According to Electoral Commission list of candidates, Ekip and Sanagke are two candidates vying for the Hagen Open seat this election.

The appeal is challenging the National Court’s decision in refusing leave to judicially review the decision of Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, in appointing Paul Goema and Andrew Kerowa, as the returning officer and assistant returning officer respectively.

They filed the judicial review on the basis that the appointments did not follow proper procedures and that they were not recommended by the Provincial Election Steering Committee for appointment.

The other reason is that Goema, being the Hagen District Administrator, was not eligible for appointment and that the Electoral Commissioner, in appointing him, did not follow his own published procedures for appointments.

However, the National Court on May 4 refused to allow that decision to be judicially reviewed because it was of the view that they, Ekip and Sanagke, did not have legal standing to bring the case and did not have an arguable case.

The National Court said the onus was on Ekip and Sanagke to establish that their interest is directly affected.

The appeal was heard by a three-judge Supreme Court bench on Monday by Justice Derek Hartshorn, Justice Hitelai Polume - Kiele and Justice Jeffery Shephard.

Nine grounds of the appeal were put before the Supreme Court.

The appeal was dismissed on Wednesday morning because the Supreme Court was of the view that Ekip and Sanagke are not persons who have “sufficient interest” as they have not been directly affected by the appointments of Goema and Kerowa as RO and ARO respectively.

The full court said the appointment decision has not affected the rights and interest of Ekip and Sanagke and if they believe their rights are affected during the course of the election, they have the option of election petition.

“We are satisfied that the trial judge did not fall into error,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Sally Pokiton