By TREVOR WAHUNE
THE National Court has declared Sam Akoitai the new Central Bougainville MP after a recount of votes.
He will take over from Fr Simon Dumarinu who was declared the winner after the 2017 general election. Dumarinu was subsequently appointed Minister for Bougainville Affairs.
Justice Lawrence Kangwia last Friday held that the results of the recount for the seat filed on March 20 showed that Akoitai had polled 7257 and Dumarinu polled 7253 and
were formally ratified as correct and valid.
The court made the declaration after it found that grounds relied on by Dumarinu, who wanted another recount, did not affect the outcome of the recount.
Dumarinu had alleged that:
- The returning officer had engaged Margret Maneo, the former wife of Akoitai, to assist in the recount;
- there were errors committed by the returning officer during the recount;
- there was omissions of constitutional duty imposed on the returning officer; and,
- The returning officer made a mistake when he did not reconcile the total number of ballot papers counted in 2017 and the recount last month.
Justice Kangwia held that the allegation against Maneo was insufficient as she was no longer Akoitai’s wife.
“They have been divorced for 35 years. There is no connection to a conflict of interest. So this allegation has no basis,” he said.
Justice Kangwia said the law was silent on Dumarinu’s application as the organic law did not allow a recount of an initial recount.
Akoitai thanked supporters of both candidates for going through the recount process peacefully.