Commissioner’s delegate Simon Sinai says this was due to financial commitments PNGEC had already made to service providers in Lae to facilitate the recount there.
“The Electoral Commission has already committed about half-a-million kina to service providers in Lae and it’s impossible to recoup the funds and divert them for a new recount venue.”
Sinai said Lae was selected as a neutral recount venue to avoid the escalating and ongoing law and order problems experienced in Simbu straight after the National Court decision ordering a recount on 27 November, 2018.
He emphasized that safety of PNGEC officers and counting officials is certainly not guaranteed if recount was held in Simbu or in the neighbouring Highlands provinces.
“The decision to recount in Lae is in the best interest of all parties to ensure safety and security is guaranteed and that there’s fairness and neutrality in the recount process.
“This is only a recount and we (PNGEC) are committed to be open and transparent as much as possible.”
Sinai, who is also the Deputy Commissioner Election Administration, further stated that the decision was made upon strong reports on the ground in Simbu and reasons given by interested parties.
“This is unfair. Interested parties should leave the Commission to deliver its constitutional duty in conducting the recount. Counting in any election is done in an open and transparent manner.”
PNGEC in recent years had conducted judicial recounts for certain electorates in other provincial centres considered as neutral venues.
- 2010 recount for the Western Highlands Provincial seat was conducted at the National Research Institute facilities in Port Moresby, NCD;
- Also in 2010, counting for Kandep Open by-election was conducted in Goroka, East Highlands; and
- Recount for Gumine Open was conducted in Lae, Morobe Province, in 2014.
Meanwhile, PNGEC officers accompanied by police and PNGEC legal counsel had made two failed attempts to retrieve the ballot boxes in Kundiawa – first attempt on December 24, 2018, and second failed attempt on January 3, 2019.
“At the moment PNGEC is waiting for police to advice on the security assessments as the situation has already become a security concern.
“PNGEC was observing the Court’s order and was doing its best to comply but was unfortunately being faced with such interruptions by the supporters or agents of candidates.”
The National Court made the order on 27 November, 2018, for the recount of all used ballot papers for the Simbu Provincial electorate and for a report to be submitted back to the same Court with the final results on 8 February, 2019.
Recount for the seat is estimated to cost K3 million.