SHP election manager position battled in court

The man who was appointed as acting Southern Highlands Election manager in 2014 has gone before the Supreme Court seeking to stay the reinstatement of the former election manager David Wakias.

Lawyers representing Jacob Kurap came before Justice Derek Hartshorn today with an application seeking to stay the National Court’s decision that upheld David Wakias' judicial review, reinstating him to his former position.

The court after hearing submissions on the application reserved its ruling to a later date.

The National Court on March 17 ruled that PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato’s decision to appoint Jacob Kurap as the Southern Highlands provincial election manager on 4 Nov 2014 was illegal.

Justice Collin Makail upheld Wakias' judicial review because the court was of the view that Kurap was appointed without applying for the position, regardless of an earlier application which was unsuccessful.

Court also said that his appointment was only to act in the position pending appointment of a permanent officer.

Kurap’s lawyer, McRonald Nale today asked the court to stay the lower court’s decision because since his appointment in 2014, he has worked closely with Joe Kaiyo, the Chairman of the Provincial Election Steering Committee (PESC) and Gamato to deliver a free and fair election in the Southern Highlands.

Nale said Southern Highlands is a volatile province and the court’s decision has already sparked tensions which has the potential to disrupt the elections.

He also submitted that the court cannot be used by Wakias to sanction a vigilante election operation totally in isolation from Gamato and the PESC because their working relationship has gone sour.

He also added that Wakias' appointment was to the position of election manager and not specifically to the Southern Highlands Province and he can be relocated at any time as per clause 16 of his contract.

Wakias' lawyer rebutted saying the order of the National Court on March 17 has been given effect to and the interest of election should be given paramount consideration.

He said any stay by the Supreme Court will affect the office that is mandated to run elections thus the stay should be refused. 

Sally Pokiton