National Court to conduct one trial for two petitions

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The Waigani National Court will conduct one trial for two election petitions challenging Phillip Undialu’s win in the race for the provincial seat.
The decision was made on Friday, with the  court joining petitions filed by former Hela Governor Francis Potape and Dr Hewali  Hamiya , challenging the declaration  of incumbent Governor and MP elect Undialu.
The court was satisfied that the petitions raised similar grounds and would be proper  to have the petitions consolidated and heard in one trial.
The court heard that Hewali’s petition alleged  errors and omissions during the exclusion of primary counts and it challenged the entire process involved during counting – from count one up to the final results of the election.
Potape’s petition alleged that the final result after the final exclusion was changed during the counting process.
Justice Collin Makail ruled the relief sought would be decided by the court whether to order a recount, make a declaration or order a by-election.
He said the court was interested to know the truth about what transpired during the election process and that would be proved at the trial.
A three-week trial was then ordered by the court to be heard in Waigani and it was fixed for Jan 8-26. Potape is to call up 57 witnesses and Undialu 41.
Hewali’s petition was filed on allegations of errors, omissions, irregularities and discrepancies of ballot papers by the Electoral Commission.
Potape‘s lawyer Paul Othas  said the petition was filed based on allegations of errors and omissions as well as illegal practices during counting by agents of the Electoral Commission named in the petition as the second respondent.