By KARO JESSE
A RECOUNT ordered for the Hela provincial seat was quashed by the Supreme Court on Friday after it upheld an application for review filed against the decision by elected Governor Philip Undialu.
The recount was ordered by the National Court on June 19, last year, in an election petition filed by candidate Francis Potape over allegations of errors or omissions committed by Electoral Commission agents and returning officer (RO)
A Supreme Court bench of Justice Collin Makail, Hitelai Polume-Kiele and Oagile Dingake found that the trial judge proceeded to determine the petition on allegations that were not before him.
As this happened because there was misapplication of different allegations (illegal practices and errors or omissions) by the trial judge, as the allegation of illegal practices by the returning officer and electoral officials at counting were withdrawn prior to the trial, there were no allegations of illegal practices for Potape (first respondent) to rely on to prove at trial.
The Supreme Court said the trial judge erred when he held that the returning officer “tempered” with or “manipulated” the final figures on Form 66B which may have affected the final results of the general election and constituted and error or omission under section 218 of Organic Law on National and Local-Level Government Election (OLNLLGE)
The trial judge also erred when he attributed that actions of the returning officer constituted an illegal practice under section 215 of OLNLLGE.
The court ruled that Potape misapprehended the actual allegation as constituting errors or omissions when he pleaded them in the petition.
The allegations were in fact allegations of illegal practices but were withdrawn prior to the trial. In doing so, the trial judge proceeded to determine the petition on the allegations which were not before him and misapprehended them as allegations of errors or omissions which resulted in petition being upheld and a recount of votes was ordered.
The allegation of failure by the returning officer to publicly declare Potape as the candidate-elected contrary to section 175 (1) (9a) of the organic law is a conclusion and is unnecessary to prove that by error or omission, the result of the election was affected.
Outside court, Undialu informed the media that election petitions (EP) were serious matters that consumed people’s time and resources.
“EP is a serious matter, the government should look into forming rules for EP where busybodies don’t waste people’s time, witnesses who collude and fabricate lies should be held accountable for wasting time and resources” he said.
Undialu’s K5,000 security deposit was refunded.
By KARO JESSE