High court relists Kerema petition

The election petition that was filed by runner-up in the Kerema Open seat, Thomas Opa, has been relisted in the Court of Disputed Returns by an order of the Supreme Court.

Following the dismissal of the petition in the National Court on October 11, Opa asked the Supreme Court to review the National Court’s decision.

The petition was dismissed after a preliminary issue was raised in a motion by MP Richard Mendani’s lawyer regarding the service of the petition by Opa.

The National Court ruled that Opa filed the petition on September 1, however Mendani was serviced the notice, by way of a published advertisement, one day late in the Post-Courier.

A petition filed must be served on the MP within the 14 days’ requirement of the election petition rules.

However, the Supreme Court through a review, found that the 14 days calculation starts after the petition is filed. The newspaper publication was on the 15th of September, which was on the 14th day.

With that ruling, the petition now goes back to the drawing board and parties are now filing their witness statements in preparation for trial.

Opa is alleging grounds of bribery and undue influence by Mendani and illegal practice, errors and omission against the Electoral Commission in the petition.

The petition returns to court on December 5.

(Thomas Opa, centre, outside court today)

Sally Pokiton