By JULIA DAIA BORE
The Supreme Court last Friday ordered a recount of the ballot for the Western Highlands Regional seat.
The top court also declared that Tom Olga remain the duly elected Member for Western Highlands Regional, until a second recount determines the actual winner.
This is the second time the ballots for this electorate would be recounted.
The three-judge bench comprising Justices Bernard Sakora, Nicholas Kirriwom and Panuel Mogish ordered that the second recount must also take into account the 1,877 ballot papers which had been excluded in the last recount.
Mr Olga was elected Regional MP for Western Highlands following the 2007 general elections.
Former Western Highlands governor Paias Wingti filed an application disputing Mr Olga’s win, claiming alleged vote rigging and malpractice by electoral officials.
The National Court declared Olga’s elections null and void and ordered a recount of votes.
The result of the recount was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The three-judge Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last Friday, stated: “It is declared that for the avoidance of any doubt, Tom Olga shall remain as the duly elected member for Western Highlands Regional seat until a legally and properly conducted recount determines the winner of the seat.”
The court also ordered:
* That both consolidated reviews be upheld; that the order declaring Tom Olga as not duly elected Member for Western Highlands Regional seat is set aside, and that the order declaring that the election results of the Western Highlands Regional seat “is null and void” is set aside
* That there must be a further recount of all the ballot papers in accordance with the court of disputed returns order of March 14 last year, and that the recount must include the 1,877 votes excluded from the recount on Dec 13 last year.
* That the court of disputed returns order and declare that the candidate with the highest number of votes following the recount be declared the winner;
* That the case be remitted to the ourt of disputed returns (National Court) for the trial judge to issue directions for the conduct of the further recount; and
* In relation to the conduct of the further recount and in relation to the appointment of the returning officer and other officers in relation to the further recount, the Electoral Commission shall have the sole authority and discretion in relation to the appointment of such officers, the recount venue, the recount dates and all other matters associated with the recount that are within the jurisdiction of the Electoral Commissioner.