The National, Monday 30th July 2012
By ZACHERY PER
PEOPLE’s National Congress candidate Benny Allan was the first candidate of the nine parliamentary seats in Eastern Highlands to be declared but there was controversy over his victory in the Unggai-Bena electorate.
He had polled strongly since primary counting began and was declared winner on the 26th exclusion on 15,139 votes, 375 more than the absolute majority mark.
He was declared by returning officer Demo Imara on Friday afternoon.
His nearest rivals Winchlee Oibotee and Opoe Soga polled 8,609 votes and 5,778 votes respectively.
The declaration was made amid calls by candidates for Imara to be arrested for allegedly conspiring to add or minus extra ballot papers in boxes at polling venues.
In a complaint letter dated July 26 to Eastern Highlands provincial police commander Supt Joe Kale, 19 candidates alleged Imara grossly abused procedures and tampered ballot papers during polling.
Imara had separately confirmed their allegation after an earlier petition that at various polling venues ballots had been added and some removed.
“When calculations of the number of ballot papers were done at the issuance of the ballot papers, we discovered 39, 296 ballots were issued but when they returned we found 42,940 ballots,” the candidates’ complaint says.
The statement said Imara failed to explain why the papers had been tampered with and why he added extra 1,024 ballots for Megunagu polling place instead of 114 papers as declared and extra 1,000 ballot papers for Kintunu Primary School instead of 118 as per the common roll.
They identified a shortfall of 600 ballot papers for Hofaga market, Bagahi in lower Bena area, only six ballot papers went there, and the use of Okapa ballot papers in Unggai Bena electorate.
The candidates raised concern at Imara’s actions and called on police to arrest him.
But provincial election manager Jimmy Alwyn referred the candidates to the Court of Disputed Returns.
Alwyn said they appeared to have a genuine case and urged them to go to the court.