Issue of Hagen RO goes to high court

The issue over the appointment of the Hagen Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer has gone before the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia in the Supreme Court.

While this matter was filed on May 24 waiting to go before court, other candidates and their supporters took issues into their own hands on Wednesday and disrupted flights into the Kagamuga airport by sitting and protesting on the tarmac.

Air Niugini this morning resumed flights into Mt Hagen after Police managed to get the supporters out.

James Yoka Ekip and Simon Sanagke filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, and today asked the court through their lawyer to stay the decision of the National Court, dated 4 May, which refused an application they had earlier filed.    

There was no evidence put before the court today to show if Ekip and Sanagke filed nominations to contest the Hagen Open seat and are candidates.

The National Court on May 4 refused to grant leave and did not allow a judicial review to be conducted into the appointments of Paul Goema and Andrew Kerowa as the Returning Officer and Assistant Returning Officer for the Hagen Open seat.

Justice Collin Makail refused to allow the review to go ahead because the court was of the view then that they did not have standing, were not interested parties and did not have an arguable case.

Aggrieved with that decision, Ekip and Sanagke filed an appeal in the Supreme Court, asking it to stay that National Court’s decision and at the same time, restrain Goema and Kerowa from carrying out their duties pursuant to their appointments.

Their lawyer told the Supreme Court today that at the time the issue came before the National Court, there was no evidence put before the court if they had filed nominations to contest the elections.

The two candidates, through their lawyer, said the Provincial Election Steering Committee (PESC) recommends to the Electoral Commission who should be appointed as the returning officer and assistant returning officer.

They said both Goema and Kerowa were not short listed but were later appointed by the Electoral Commissioner.

Ekip and Sanagke, through their lawyer, had raised in the National Court that Goemba is the District Administrator of Hagen District and not eligible for appointment. He was not one of the candidates recommended for appointment by the PESC.

Their lawyer had submitted then that this decision was also in direct contradiction to the position taken by the Electoral Commissioner earlier that no District Administrators will be appointed as ROs or AROs because they have a conflict of interest. This is due to the fact that they work closely with sitting Members of Parliament during the term of Parliament and would not be impartial in the discharge of their duties and functions during the election.

They also submitted in the National Court that in the case of Kerowa, he also did not go through the appointment process and is a cousin and clansman of the sitting member.

Lawyer for Commissioner Patilas Gamato told the court today that the matter in the National Court did not go past the leave stage because the grounds raised by the two were mere speculations and assumptions, as per the decision of the National Court judge.

The Electoral Commissioner’s lawyer also submitted that the Electoral Commissioner is not bound by any law to make appointments on recommendations made by the Provincial Election Steering Committee.

He said the Electoral Commission is already in its advanced stage of preparing for the elections and new appointments will cause further inconvenience, in terms of cost involved in training.

He added that no error was done by the National Court when the judge refused to grant leave for judicial review, maintaining the applicants did not and do not have standing or an arguable case.

The commissioner’s lawyer also said no interim orders were issued in the leave stage of the review in the National Court and that this stay application in the Supreme Court is not properly before the court.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia heard the application today and reserved his ruling to a later date.


Related article:

Kagamuga airport disrupted by candidates and supporters -

Gamato: It’s before the Courts -

Airline resumes flights to Kagamuga -


Updated article:

​Issue of Hagen RO remains in Supreme Court -

Sally Pokiton