Petition against Wong dismissed

The petition disputing Jelta Wong’s election as Gazelle MP has been dismissed by the Kokopo National Court for lack of evidence.

Justice Collin Makail dismissed the petition on Thursday because the petitioner, former MP Malakai Tabar, did not establish a case for Wong to respond.

The dismissal came after Wong’s no-case submission was successful in court.  

On Wednesday, the court ruled out one of the three allegations in the petition after it was found to be incompetent.

The trial proceeded on Thursday with the two remaining allegations of bribery. Evidence was called in by the petitioner.

At the close of Tabar’s case, Wong’s lawyer moved a no-case motion, asking the court to dismiss the petition. The Electoral Commission supported Wong’s no-case submission.

Tabar alleged that Wong gave a K100 note to a voter, August Punion, on 22 April, 2017, at Tagitagi No.1 village, Toma-Vunadidir LLG, Gazelle district, at around 9am. This was for him to buy food and give him a vote.

The onus was on the petitioner to prove this allegation.

Tabar used evidence from six witnesses, including Punion and a woman who was cross-examined in court.

Wong’s no-case submission was on the ground that he was not a candidate when the alleged offense of bribery was committed. He also argued the person allegedly bribed was not an elector and there was generally lack of evidence on the purpose of him giving Punion the money. 

The issue of when Wong was nominated, making him a candidate in the Gazelle open seat, was hotly contested in court. Two different dates were put forward as Wong’s nomination date; April 21 and April 24 last year.

Form 23 (nomination form) from the Electoral Commission came into play as vital evidence addressing this issue. It was upheld that Wong was nominated on April 24 last year.

The court also found that the elector, August Punion, who is also known as Lakit Punion, did not have his name (August Punion) on the electoral roll.

“This view appears too legalistic and technical but this is the only way to put to rest the elector identity issue. Here the name August Punion does not appear (in the roll). I am not satisfied that there is evidence to prove that August Punion is an elector,” Justice Makail ruled.

“The petitioner has failed to prove that August Punion is an elector within the meaning of section 3 of the Organic Law and it would be pointless to allow the case to proceed further. It must be stopped here.”

(Jelta Wong and his lawyer McRonald Nale and the team from Jema lawyers outside the Kokopo National Court after the decision)  

Sally Pokiton