By GIDEON KINDIWA
THE Supreme Court has stayed the local level government elections until a reference on its legality is determined — and it warned polling may be deferred up to a year because of the court process.
Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, pictured, said when ordering the stay yesterday in the Supreme Court: “The reference is not ready for hearing and so it is going to take possibly another six or so months to have it heard. It will then take the court another three to six months to give a decision. That is the prejudice the parties will suffer.”
The order was issued yesterday about one hour after the writs for the elections were issued by Inter-Government Relations Minister Kevin Isufu in Waigani as had been previously planned.
The stay order application was filed by the Umi-Atzera local level government in Morobe and the East Sepik Provincial Authority, asking the court to stay the issuing of writs until a reference filed by the Ombudsman Commission was dealt with by the Supreme Court first.
Justice Sir Gibbs ruled that the questions raised by the Ombudsman Commission in the reference were serious and would have to be determined first before the local level government elections could go ahead.
“The Electoral Commission delayed the conduct of the local level government elections which were to have been held in 2012 and 2017,” Justice Sir Gibbs said.
“The local level governments are an important part of the government structure in the scheme of good governance.
“It affects the rights of the ward members, their constituents and the delivery of goods and services to the grassroots at the local level.
“The questions (in the reference) in my respectful view are serious.”
Justice Sir Gibbs said the status quo had to be maintained and the writs must not be issued until the reference was determined.
“An interim order is granted to stay the Electoral Commission from issuing local level government writs to conduct the local level government elections until the Supreme Court reference number 2 of 2019 is heard and determined.”
The Electoral Commission, Umi-Atzera local level government and the East Sepik Provincial Authority were interveners to the reference.
By GIDEON KINDIWA