The National, Friday July 27th, 2012
ELECTORAL Commissioner Andrew Trawen has not recognised yesterday’s declaration of the Nipa-Kutubu open electorate seat in Southern Highlands.He said a decision on the outcome of elections in Nipa-Kutubu and the Imbonggu electorate, also in Southern Highlands, would be made after he is fully briefed by his provincial election manager, David Warkias.“What you may have heard on the radio and seen on the PNG Electoral Commission website is not correct. I have made no decisions as yet on the outcomes of the elections in these two electorates.“I will make my decision tomorrow after I am fully briefed by my election manager,” Trawen said.
He said given the options available for Nipa-Kutubu, the focus now would be to look at forms 66A and 66B and compare their primary and secondary votes. This would mean stripping the figures collected by each candidate from the disputed boxes to come up with the real total for each person.
Trawen said the suggestion to conduct quality checks or recounting in Port Moresby would be too expensive, although some candidates had volunteered to meet the cost of transporting the boxes to Port Moresby and meeting other administrative and logistics cost.
The announcement by the electoral commissioner came amid moves by a number of candidates in the Nipa-Kutubu race seeking legal interpretation of a number of ballot boxes that were disputed at the beginning of this month but yet counted.
The decision to count was also in direct breach of a directive by the electoral commissioner instructing returning officer John Harisol not to count seven disputed boxes for Nipa-Kutubu.
In separate letters on July 3 and July 7, the commissioner had advised Harisol not to count nine disputed ballot boxes. However, the returning officer defied these instructions and on July 15, was sacked from the post.Police were also asked to move in and arrest Harisol and charged him with “inciting or encouraging, whether publicly or otherwise, disturbances to interfere in an election under section 178(h) of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections”.
Last Friday, Trawen wrote another letter to the acting returning officer and warned that he would seriously consider failing the Nipa-Kutubu elections.
Speaking in Port Moresby yesterday, Nipa-Kutubu candidate and third-place runner Tony Mana Kila said the declaration was made without the disputed boxes being set aside.
“This is illegal because Trawen and the Electoral Commission lawyer, and the provincial election manager had all advised against counting the disputed boxes.”
Kila said if all the available options could not be applied in this situation, then the obvious thing to do would be to fail the elections in Nipa-Kutubu.