The National, Monday July 9th, 2012
By ADRIAN MATHIAS
THE Waigani National Court last Thursday dismissed an application seeking a court order to declare failed elections in all six electorates in the Southern Highlands by six candidates in the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate because of alleged polling irregularities.
Candidates Paul Pori, Eke Lama, Dr Pole Awei, Raphael Noipo, Philip Rambu, and Alex Timothy Aipea through their lawyer David Dotaona, applied for the following orders:
l A declaration that the election for the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate be deemed a failure due to widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, electoral officials marking ballot papers contrary to the instructions of voters, and tampering of votes, which had affected the outcome of the election;
l An order that the Electoral Commission enquire into the circumstances of widespread stuffing of ballot boxes, electoral officials marking ballot papers contrary to the instructions of voters, and tampering of votes, and determine as soon as practicable, whether to make a return for the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate;
l An order that a new writ be issued for a supplementary election for the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate by the Head of State, acting with, and in accordance with, the advice of the Electoral Commission, as soon as practicable;
l A declaration that the parliamentary seat for the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate be deemed vacant; and
l An interim injunction until trial or further order be issued forthwith restraining the second defendant and his servants and agents and howsoever they may be described from conducting scrutiny of the votes cast in the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate.
The plaintiffs relied on an affidavit by Awei filed on July 4 that alleged that polling officials selected by the Electoral Commission were replaced by the first defendant’s supporters three days before polling.
The defendants in this case were Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Electoral Commissioner Andrew Trawen and the state.
Defence lawyer William Ray argued that the National Court did not have the jurisdiction to make a ruling.
He said courts should not interfere with the elections process, saying that the Electoral Commission was the sole authority and had the powers to deal with election issues.
He warned the courts not to overrule the powers of the Electoral Commission.
Justice Collin Makail dismissed the plaintiff’s application and maintained that counting be continued in the Ialibu-Pangia open electorate and to declare a winner.