Deadline extension legal: Judge

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A JUDGE clarified yesterday that the power to extend the deadline for the return of writs is provided for under the Organic Law, and any decision by the Electoral Commission cannot be challenged in court.
Judge Joseph Yagi said the decision to extend the deadline for the return of writs from July 29 to Aug 5 was made by the Governor-General Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae on the advice of Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai and the Electoral Commission (EC).
“Sinai and the EC merely provided the advice and the head of state acted on that advice to make the decision,” Judge Yagi said.
“The power to make the decision to extend the time is provided under Section 75 and Section 80 and, in particular, Section 177(1) of the Organic Law.
“In any case, any advice provided to the head of state by Sinai and EC are protected and cannot be challenged in a court of law by virtue of Section 86(4) of the Constitution.”
He made the remarks in the National Court at Waigani after refusing an application filed by some Moresby North-West candidates to review the decisions made by the EC to extend the return of writs, and for refusing to exclude from the counting allegedly marked ballot papers from Ward One.
The candidates were Isaac Lupari, Dr Thaddeus Kambanei, Anna Bais, Jackson Kiakari, Desmond Yaninen, Allan Nanguromo, Togaro Asiba and Walter Yangomina.
Moresby North-West assistant returning officer Tamasi Toua, returning officer Vincent Manukayasi, National Capital District Election Manager Kila Ralai, Sinai, the EC and the State were named as defendants.
During polling, concerns were raised about the threats against polling officials by supporters of certain candidates, voter fraud, double voting, underage voting, ballot box tampering and stuffing of ballot papers.
They were brought to the attention of Toua and Manukayasi who overruled the objections.
The candidates then wrote a letter to Sinai on July 20.
On July 26, Sir Bob informed the public of the extension of the return of writs. The plaintiffs’ lawyer Gloria Salika argued that the extension of the return of writs was invalid and unconstitutional.
“Toua and Manukayasi had considered and deliberated on it and made a decision overruling the objection,” she said.
“The same complaint was raised again with Sinai and EC.
“But for reasons best known to them, no decision has been made.
“The decision is pending and is outstanding.”
Judge Yagi said there was no arguable case in respect to the second decision.
He refused the application for leave to review the EC decision and ordered the plaintiffs to bear their own costs.

Polling officials in SHP demand payment and allowances
The Imbonggu Open electorate counting officials were the first to raise complaints of their allowances. They were assured that payments would be done as soon as possible.

ELECTION officials counting votes for three seats in Southern Highlands downed tools yesterday because of the non-payment of their allowances, but were persuaded by Returning Officer Alwin Jimmy to return to work.
The three seats remaining are for Kagua-Erave, Nipa-Kutubu and the Southern Highlands regional.
Jimmy and provincial administrator Jerry David explained to them the allowance issue then persuaded them to continue the counting.
The officials fronted the gate at the Momei Oval counting centre in Mendi and demanded that their allowances be paid.
David assured them that the provincial administration would pay them some money through the provincial election steering committee.
He said the payment of allowances was being processed at the Electoral Commission (EC) headquarters.
Jimmy said he was not consulted before the involvement of a Justine Norma to sort out the allowance issue.
He therefore did not know how far it had progressed.
“The EC did not consult me and appointed another returning officer for Kagua-Erave.
“The tally supervisors are not updating the tallies at the central tally,” he said.
“They walk away with the tally.
“Most of them were chosen by candidates and are doing things on their own. They are not feeding us information. I am feeling the pinch here.
“They have moved the counting to the Agiru Centre.”

Failed election likely: RO

THE chances of completing counting for Moresby North-West seat before the 4.05pm deadline for the return of writs today looks slim, says Returning Officer Vincent Manukayasi.
He said it could be declared a “failed election”.
“Not sure I can do it.
“I just got a Whatsapp message that the courts have given me an order to count the three disputed boxes in Ward One, but nothing in writing yet from the PNG Electoral Commission,” he said.
“If we don’t complete the counting process and come up with a winner by 4:04pm, then it will be a failed election.
“When there is a failed election then there is going to be a (supplementary) election.
“There is a very slim possibility for me to complete everything before the deadline.”
At 4pm yesterday, he said they had not completed the quality-check stage.

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