Protest puts Hagen city on lock-down

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BUSINESSES, schools, hospitals and the airport in Mt Hagen city have shut down since Monday in fear of an upheaval.
Heavy security presence is seen in areas such as Kagamuga Airport and the joint forces are monitoring the tense situation caused by the declaration of incumbent William Duma as MP-elect, with 28 boxes uncounted.
Water and power supply have been disrupted and the automatic teller machine (ATM) in town is also closed.
The movement of people are also being restricted in fear of a riot starting.
The situation came about after 12 candidates contesting the Mt Hagen open seat petitioned Electoral Commissioner Patilas Gamato and Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae not to accept the writ for Hagen and ordered for the 28 remaining boxes to be counted.
The candidates said that Hagen open returning officer Paul Goimba did not follow the proper procedure to declare United Resource Party’s Duma as the MP-elect.
The candidates are also calling on Gamato to call for a re-count of the remaining boxes.
On Tuesday, a huge protest was held in the city where hundreds of people turned up with banners demanding Gamato not to accept the writ and order the counting of the 28 boxes.
Security personnel engaged in the election and local police boosted their manpower to prevent shops being looted or properties damaged.
Goimba declared Duma on Saturday and set aside 28 boxes in a container.
Duma polled 29,838 votes.
Candidate James Puk was in second place with 7430 votes and Luke Luckcee Mathew was third with 4514. Candidates claimed that there were 83,551 ballot papers and 107 ballet boxes issued for the Hagen open electorate.
They said of that 4540 ballot papers were destroyed along with nine boxes during polling and 1325 were informal.
They said that after subtracting the total number of damaged and informal ballot papers, the total number allowable was 77,676.
They claimed that from that figure, Duma did not reached the absolute majority but Goimba went ahead and declared him.
Candidates claimed that Duma needed to collect a total of 9558 to reach the absolute majority.
Puk said that Goimba had declared Duma in 2007 as well.
He said that in 2012, 21 boxes were set aside by another returning officer.
The candidates gave a 48-hour notice from Tuesday for Gamato to act on their petition. “We are calling on the electoral commissioner not to accept the writ and allow for the 28 boxes to count,” candidate James Yoka said.
“These are people’s votes and it is a shame when people’s rights have been deprived and locked in a container.”
Provincial police commander Chief Supt Martin Lakari urged the people to respect properties and lives.

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