The National,Friday July 13th, 2012
By GABRIEL LAHOC
TWO separate strikes by Huon-Gulf open scrutineers and returning officer Francis Javati and his officials hampered yesterday’s vote counting at the Polytechnic Institute in Lae, Morobe.
On Wednesday afternoon, scrutineers disputed ballot box 106448 covering Bobodum to Laugui and box 107182 covering Sabaya to Kela, in the Salamaua local level government area.
They voiced concerns that:
l More than 50 ballot papers were found to have their butts still intact;
l Some ballot papers were not signed by the returning officer;
l The outer seal of ballot box 107182 was tampered with and had been replaced with a different numbered seal; and
l That the boxes were not provided adequate security when they were kept overnight at Salamaua.
That resulted in counting being suspended by Javati and deferred to yesterday.
The scrutineers then gathered outside the counting venue in protest, calling for the electoral commission to disqualify those boxes.The scrutineers were caught by surprise when Javati and his officials staged their own protest, suspending counting for an indefinite period, locked the doors to the counting hall and left.
In a media conference, Javati blamed the provincial elections manager and Lae metropolitan Supt Nema Mondiai for not paying officials their allowances and for the poor security.
“My main concern is my officers doing a thorough job and their wellbeing because as we are entering the end of the primary counts, the tempers are rising among the scrutineers and something bad could have happened,” he said.As part of security measures, he has grounded all government vehicles used by his team and asked Sinai and Patilus Gamato, as chairman of the provincial election steering committee, to beef up security at the counting venue and to hire vehicles to use.
Javati said Gamato had assured him he would get “things set in motion”.
Attempts to get comments from Sinai and Mondiai were unsuccessful.