Court refuses to interrupt SHP counting

The Waigani National Court on Wednesday refused an application asking it to stop the appointment Southern Highlands “Provincial” returning officer from carrying out his duties.

Candidate Joseph Kobol filed an urgent application on July 13 seeking interim injunction to stop returning officer Jacob Kurap from performing the duties and function of a Provincial Returning Officer.

Lawyer representing Kobol said the appointment of Kurap as provincial returning officer is not created by law under section 19 of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections (OLNLLGE).

A provincial returning officer is also known as the election manager for the province while a presiding officer is responsible for the open seats. Appointments for the latter are gazetted pursuant to section 19 of the OLNLLGE.

Kobol’s application was seeking declaration of the court that the appointment of Kurap as the provincial returning officer null and void and not in accordance to section 19 of the OLNLLGE.

Section 20 is on Assistant Returning Officer while section 21 is on Appointment in case of Emergency.

At the time the application went before the court yesterday, lawyer for the Electoral Commission told the court that counting for the Southern Highlands regional seat was ongoing and they had 83 ballot boxes remaining for counting.

The Electoral Commission said the appointment process took place three months ago and they should have challenged that then.

Justice Collin Makail, in making a ruling on the application, was not satisfied that Kobol raised a serious issue.

In refusing the application, he was not satisfied a significant error was done by the Electoral Commission as the appointing body.

He said the people of Southern Highlands Province deserve a result from the election and the electoral process must be allowed to take its course.

Justice Makail said there is a misconception that every little error in the electoral process must have the intervention of the court.

That, he says, is not the case in dealing with errors or omissions by electoral officials on electoral process.

He said section 218 (Immaterial Errors Not To Vitiate Election) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections (OLNLLGE) must be the starting point when dealing with errors on the part of electoral officials.

The substantive matter will return to court on August 1 for further directions.

Sally Pokiton