Sunday polling reference withdrawn

The Supreme Court reference that was filed on the legality of polling conducted on Sunday in the Ialibu-Pangia electorate, in Southern Highlands Province, will no longer be pursued in court.

This reference was filed on July 10 by runner-up in the Ialibu-Pangia seat, Stanley Liria, questioning the legality of polling that was conducted on Sunday, July 2, after it was deferred from Friday, June 30.

In the reference, the high court was asked to interpret section 130 of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government elections.

But lawyers representing Liria today asked the Supreme Court to have the entire proceeding withdrawn.

The withdrawal comes amidst chaos in Mendi town, the provincial capital of the Southern Highlands Province, following the declaration of its provincial seat to incumbent MP, William Powi.

The situation on ground is calm but tense, while shops and services remain closed after the shooting and killing of two police officers, and the destruction of properties.

However, the election petition, which was filed by Liria, remains in the Court of Disputed Returns.

The petition went for direction hearing on September 20 to assist parties prepare themselves for the actual hearing.

The main basis of the petition is the alleged illegal polling on Sunday, which breaches section 130(1)(b) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government elections.

There are three grounds of the petition; illegal practices, bribery and undue influence.

Petitioner Stanley Liria intends to call 184 witnesses for the trial while Ialibu-Pangia MP and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s lawyer indicated calling between 15-20 witnesses.

The petition will return to court later for a trial date to be set.

Sally Pokiton