Gamato approved a dead man’s signature

The PNG Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato, has accepted an Election Writ signed by a deceased returning officer.

This major blunder resulted in the attendance of two members-elect from Gumine Open, Simbu Province, in parliament yesterday.

The Electoral Commissioner accepted the Gumine Open writ, declaring sitting MP, Nick Kuman (People’s National Congress Party candidate), Member of Gumine.    

On the other hand, Lucas Dekena, who entered the chamber but did not sign the Declaration of Loyalty Form, claimed he was cheated.   

“I am the duly-elected Member for Gumine Open but the system did not allow me to take my rightful place on the floor of Parliament,” Dekena said during the Opposition media conference yesterday.   

“I went through the electoral process and after counting, after quality checks and verification, I was called upon to be declared.

“And the Gumine Open writ, which was issued to the RO (Returning Officer), Max Yomba, was stolen in the hands of the Election Manager for Simbu by security personnel.

“I was waiting from 3:45pm to be declared, the police caught up with the person at Kuli Gap, the border between Western Highlands and Jiwaka, and brought the writ back and I was declared at 9pm by the duly appointed returning officer, in the presence of the Simbu Election Steering Committee, Counting Officials, Provincial Police Commander and the general public.  

“The deputy Electoral Commissioner and Electoral Commissioner declined to receive the writ presented by the RO, Max Yomba, because they have a writ signed by a dead man,” Dekena said.  

There is a death certificate confirming that Peter Kalpe, whose signature and name was on the writ, died on 3 February, 2017.

Meanwhile, the Waigani National Court yesterday restrained Kuman from being sworn into parliament.

But the court order was not served on time, and Kuman was declared as an elected MP in Parliament. 

According to court documents, Dekena was declared on 28 July at the Kundiawa counting centre by Returning Officer Max Yomba.

He polled 13,870 while Kuman scored 13,849 votes. The absolute majority was 13,861.

Dekena's lawyer, Greg Egan, said the duly-appointed RO is Yomba, who signed the writ that was issued on April 20. This writ was signed by Dekena on 28 July.

The Electoral Commissioner is yet to make a statement on this matter.  

Charles Yapumi