By JAMES GUMUNO
THE provincial returning officer for Southern Highlands says elimination for the provincial seat done in Mt Hagen will not go ahead without the disputed ballot boxes, held in Mendi.
Eastern Highlands election manager Steven Gore Kaupa, who was appointed to complete the counting for the Southern Highlands regional seat, said counting would not proceed until the disputed ballot boxes were brought to Mt Hagen.
Kaupa said he did not know how many disputed boxes were set aside and locked up at Mendi police station.
He said that Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato gave specific directions that these ballot boxes must be brought into Mt Hagen and admitted in the counting.
“There are no records showing how many disputed ballot boxes are held in Mendi,” Kaupa said.
“I want to go up there to physically inspect and count the boxes and bring them to Mt Hagen.”
He said some boxes that needed to be counted would be allowed for counting after scrutiny.
“As a provincial returning officer, I need to see the ballot boxes,” he said.
“If I see that the ballot boxes are tampered with, I will set them aside.”
He said instruction from Gamato was clear.
Gamato had said that the election process would not be completed without the inclusion of these disputed boxes.
“I want to appeal to the candidates and supporters in Mendi to allow the disputed boxes to be taken to Mt Hagen for screening purposes,” he said.
Kaupa said based on a National Court decision Gamato wanted the disputed ballot boxes to be transported to Mt Hagen.
A women leader had also raised concerns that Mendi town was no longer safe for women and children due the election-related violence in town.
Margaret Kawa from Ialibu said: “Mendi town is no longer safe for women and children to have access to basic services as unplanned riots are taking place.”
She urged leaders to solve the issue to allow for smooth flow of basic services.
Meanwhile, 16 locals received bullet wounds after a gun fight with security personnel on Sunday morning in Mendi.
The security forces made an unsuccessful attempt to remove the 12 feet container holding the disputed ballot boxes at the Mendi police station.
By JAMES GUMUNO