Counting delayed after returning officer quits


COUNTING of the Southern Highlands provincial seat received another blow with the replacement provincial returning officer quitting.
Counting was moved from Mendi into Mt Hagen, Western Highlands, on Saturday and is likely to be further delayed.
Election manager David Wakias said yesterday that the new returning officer Michael Ariando resigned on Monday.
He said Ariando replaced Jacob Gurap.
Wakias said the counting venue was already secured, but counting would not start without the presence of the provincial returning officer.
He said that he did not know how soon a new officer would be appointed to oversee the counting.
He said that to clear the misunderstanding, the decision to move the counting from Mendi to Mt Hagen was made by Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato.
“I want to make it clear that I have no power to move the counting from Mendi into Hagen,” he said.
Wakias said that when he received the directive from Gamato on Saturday, he moved the ballot boxes and security personnel from Mendi into Mt Hagen.
He said that Gamato made the decision after fighting in Mendi town last week resulted in some deaths.
He said the ballot boxes were kept safe at the Hagen police station under 24-hour security.

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