Witness in Hela petition given till tomorrow

One of two witnesses who were summoned to appear at the hearing of the two Hela Regional petitions has been given until Friday to appear at Waigani National Court.

Chief Sergeant Mike Imara and lawyer John Ole were summoned by Francis Potape to appear for the petition hearing, which commenced today. Only Ole was present in court.

Trial Judge Justice Ellenas Batari gave the officer until Friday morning to appear in court or a bench warrant will be issued.

The two joined petitions challenging Philip Undialu’s election as Hela Regional member went to court this morning for parties to sort out preliminary issues. Among these were the summons and other motions.

The petitions, filed respectively by Francis Potape and Dr. Hemia Hewali, were joined for trial hearing on 17 November 2017.

Today the law firm representing the Electoral Commission came to court with an application for adjournment because the lawyer who was in carriage of the matter resigned from the law firm.

Despite the application being objected by the two petitioners, an adjournment was given to the Electoral Commission till Monday for councils to prepare themselves for hearing of the substantive trial as well as two objections challenging the competency of the petitions come next Monday.

The petition will proceed to trial pending the outcome of the objections.

Another preliminary matter that arose today was the motion filed by Undialu to have the order of 17 November 2017 varied. This order saw the consolidation of the two petitions for trial.

Justice Batari told parties that practice has been that the variation of orders goes before the same court that issued it.  

All parties agreed that arguments on that motion will be heard tomorrow.

The principal allegations in the two petitions are against the Electoral Commission on grounds of errors and omission.

Potape is alleging the final figures that led to Undialu’s declaration on July 23, 2017, were changed by a different set of counting officials under the supervision of Returning Officer John Tipa.

However, Undialu’s lawyer says the change of shift was between those who worked in the morning who did sorting and distribution.  

These allegations are the subject of the substantive trial hearing.

(Philip Undialu with his supporters at the courthouse today)

Sally Pokiton