Gamato to decide on late writs

National

By DEMAS TIEN
A COURT has left it to the discretion of the electoral commissioner how to deal with the electorates still counting votes after 2pm yesterday.
A Supreme Court order on Friday extending the date for the return of writs lapsed at 2pm yesterday.
Justice Stephen Kassman, lawyers for the Ombudsman Commission, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Electoral Commission, Clerk to Parliament and the State agreed that it should be left to Commissioner Patilias Gamato to exercise its discretion under Section 81(3) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections to deal with the electorates which had not declared the winners.
Section 81(3) states that “where special circumstances make it necessary, the Electoral Commission may return a writ after the date fixed for the return of writs”.
The provision was pointed to the court yesterday by Ombudsman Commission’s lawyer Dr Vergil Narokobi after a discussion with O’Neill’s lawyer Tiffany Twivey, Electoral Commission’s lawyer Alfred Kimbu and State lawyer Roselyn Gwaibo representing the State, Clerk to Parliament and the Electoral Commission.
Gwaibo asked the court not to extend the interim orders which extended the date for the return of writs. She said the electoral commissioner could, under that section of the law, still accept the writs for the remaining electorates after the date for the return of writs on Friday. Twivey supported Gwaibo’s submission.
Narokobi said he was not aware of that section of the law when he sought the interim orders on Friday to extend the date for the return of writs to 2pm yesterday.
He said the Ombudsman Commission was not trying to interfere with “anyone”, but was trying to assist the process. The substantive case, which was a special reference filed by the Ombudsman Commission under Section 19(1) of the Constitution, would return to court on Aug 14 for direction.

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