Candidates call EC to sideline provincial returning officer


COUNTING for the Southern Highlands regional seat ground to a halt yesterday after candidates raised complaints alleging that two disputed boxes were brought to the counting centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Candidates are now calling on the Electoral Commission to immediately sideline provincial returning officer Jacob Kurap and appoint a neutral person or let provincial election manager David Wakias take over and continue with the counting.
Candidates Joe Kopol, Jerry Kiwai and Peter Benard were among those who protested the counting of the two disputed boxes.
Benard said the disputed boxes were mixed with other boxes and taken in for counting and this angered the scrutineers who walked out of the counting centre on Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday morning, there were several fights near the airport and a man was slashed with a bush knife and rushed to the Mendi Hospital but died later.
“Tensions are rising because of poor decisions made by the returning officers; they have to listen to scrutineers and should have proceeded with the other boxes,” Benard said.
“We already have a casualty and we do not want any more bloodshed and the Electoral Commission must immediately appoint a neutral person for the counting and sideline Kurap.”
Provincial election manager David Wakias said he understood the candidates’ grievances but was awaiting a response from the Electoral Commission.
He said he was not in a position to sideline Kurap as demanded by the candidates and a decision would have to be be made by his superiors.
Wakias said there were about 162 ballot boxes left to be counted and he wanted to complete them.

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