Candidates query Nipa-Kutubu declaration

National, Normal

The National, Wednesday July 1st, 2012

YESTERDAY’s declaration of Pesab Jeffery Komal as the member-elect for Nipa-Kutubu in Southern Highlands has been questioned by outgoing MP Philemon Embel, who finished second, and Tony Kila, who came in third.
Embel and Kila said the declaration was not proper because figures from the seven disputed boxes, when subtracted from the running total, would have seen the member-elect dropped out of the race.
Southern Highlands election manager David Wakias declared Komal as the Nipa-Kutubu MP in Port Moresby yesterday in the presence of Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen and media personnel.
A total of 5,632 votes were removed from the tallies of all candidates in the disputed boxes, leaving Komal with 26,890 votes followed by Embel on 24,961.
However, Embel and Kila said the total votes stripped did not reflect on the total number of votes contained in those ballot boxes. They believed the figures should have been more than 10,000 votes.
“The figures from the disputed boxes have been reduced greatly,” Kila said. “Either that, or the votes stripped were only from the primary and not the secondary counts.
“Although we would have preferred a recount, time did not really allow for this.
“However, at the time when votes from the disputed boxes were stripped from the total, we would have preferred our scrutineers or preferred campaign officials, who are with us in Port Moresby, to be present to witness what was going on.
“It seemed this was done behind closed doors and brings into question how transparent the process was.
“From what we know, deliberations on the Nipa-Kutubu seat were conducted between the commission lawyer and Wakias, and a decision reached. No one seems to know the process followed in making the declaration,” Kila said.
“For now, it seems the commissioner has taken a soft stance against those who had defied his instructions and proceeded with counting ballot papers contained in the disputed boxes.
“Commonsense did not prevail in this instance and the PNG Electoral Commission has been made a laughing stock.”
Speaking on Monday, Embel said he would have preferred a supplementary election to resolve the Nipa-Kutubu election saga.
Both candidates were talking to their lawyers last night with plans to seek redress in the courts of disputed returns.