Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kandep seat dispute in court

Source: Post Courier, October 31, 2011

THE appointment of the returning officer for the Kandep Open electorate in the 2012 national general elections is now under dispute before the National Court in Wabag.
And the court has granted leave to a private lawyer intending to contest the Kandep Open seat in the Enga Province to seek a judicial review on the appointment of the returning officer for the electorate.
Kandep Open electorate is the seat held by Treasurer Don Polye.
Private lawyer Luke Alfred Manase, who came second to Mr Polye in the 2007 general elections, is asking the court to nullify the appointment of Naipet Keai as the returning officer for the seat.
Mr Keai was the returning officer for Kandep Open electorate in the last general elections.
He is the District Administrator for the Kandep District.
Mr Manase claims in his statement to court that Mr Keae is a strong supporter and close friend of Mr Polye - and because of that relationship there is a likelihood of compromising the integrity of the electoral process.
Mr Keai is named as the first defendant in the case now before the court in Wabag.
The Electoral Commission of Papua New Guinea is named as the second defendant.
In his statement filed in the National Court, Mr Manase through his lawyers Muromu Lawyers of Lae told the court he intends to contest the Kandep Open seat in the 2012 general elections.
Following the declaration of the 2007, Mr Manase disputed the results citing 37 grounds and the court of disputed returns allowed 35 grounds to proceed to trial.
Of the 35 grounds, the court of disputed returns grouped them into the broad grounds of:
(1) Hijacking (stealing) ballot boxes and ballot papers and filling in the ballot papers and putting them in the box, generally known as stuffing the ballot box;
(2) Officials marking ballot papers contrary to the way they were instructed by the voters;
(3) Complete destruction of ballot papers and ballot boxes allegedly caused by an official not marking a ballot paper in accordance with the voters’ wish, or deliberate interference by members of the public;
(4) Electoral official mistakes in sending the wrong ballot box to a polling place resulting in too many or too few ballot papers being available;
(5) Manipulation of the ballot papers by refusing to count the contents of the ballot boxes for an unlawful reason.
The court found that 7,562 votes were affected by illegal practices.
It declared the elections in Kandep null and void and a by election was held from September 2009.
Don Polye was declared winner in the by-election conducted by the same electoral officials who conducted the 2007 polls in the electorate.
Mr Manase told the court the Electoral Commission having made known the findings of the court of disputed returns of the illegal practices by the electoral officials under the direct control and supervision of Mr Naipet Keai went ahead to appoint him to be the returning officer for the Kandep Open Electorate for the 2012 general elections.
Mr Manase stated that upon learning of the appointment of Mr Keai, he wrote to the Electoral Commission on 23rd March 2011 to revoke that appointment.
His lawyers also wrote to the commission on 15th June 2011 about the same matter.
However, despite their concerns, the Electoral Commission went ahead and appointed Mr Keae returning officer for Kandep in the National Gazette No:G159 dated 20th June 2011.
Mr Manase is seeking the court to nullify the appointment of Mr Keae on the grounds that:
(i) The appointment of Mr Keae as the returning officer for Kandep Open electorate is an appointment that will not safe guard the independence of the office of the Electoral Commission in the 2012 general elections;
(ii) The appointment will not safe guard the integrity of the elections in the 2012 general elections for the Kandep Open seat.
Mr Manase is seeking an order from the National Court to prevent Mr Keae and any other persons appointed by him in his capacity as the returning officer for the Kandep Open seat from conducting the elections including updating the common roll until the substantive matter is determined by the court.
His lawyers have submitted to the court that the appointment of Mr Keae is without substantial merits and without good conscience given the experiences of the 2007 general elections.
They say the appointment has created and will create apprehension of bias given the illegal electoral practices during the 2007 general elections that have proven to have occurred.
The matter will return to the National Court onDecember 2 in Wabag

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