Supporters block shipment of disputed ballot papers

National

SUPPORTERS of candidates contesting the Southern Highlands provincial seat have blocked the  shipment of containers with 84 boxes to Mt Hagen for counting before the elimination process.
The supporters packed the Mendi police station on Monday and refused to allow the boxes to be transported to Mt Hagen.
They did this after Electoral Commissioner Patilas Gamato wrote to the newly-elected provincial returning officer Steven Kaupa on Aug 22 advising him to allow the 84 boxes to be counted before the quality checks and eliminations.
But unhappy supporters refused to allow the boxes to be transported out of Mendi and claimed that only 18 remained to be counted and not 84 as stated.
They are demanding that the elimination process proceed and the remaining boxes status determined by the Court of Disputed Returns after a declaration has been made.
Robert Posu, a landowner from Mendi town, said that the electoral process was affecting the lives of the people.
He said that gunshots were frequent at night, people were being terrorised and Mendi was facing a total breakdown in law and order.
“I call on Gamato to make a decision to prevent further loss of lives and destruction to properties,” he said. “I do not feel well as a landowner. Mendi was not like this.  We are holding Gamato responsible.”
Paso said that the matter of the disputed boxes was before the National Court yet Gamato had issued another directive.
Dominic Naik, a public servant from Mendi, said that schools and health services were affected.
“We are reminding Gamato that Southern Highlanders are well-educated and we know our rights,”he said.
“Gamato has to allow the elimination process to proceed without any further delays,” Naik said.

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