Returning officer arrested

Main Stories, National

The National, Wednesday 25th July, 2012

ELECTORAL Commissioner Andrew Trawen has confirmed reports that the acting returning officer for Moresby North – east was arrested and charged at the Boroko police station yesterday.
However, Trawen denied having any knowledge of the nature of the arrest.
According to a signed statement lodged with police by counting official Sedrick David, who raised the alarm, acting returning officer Joe Kandai had allegedly solicited confidential information containing details of six boxes for Ward 6 (6-Mile) and attempted to pass on the information to someone parked outside the Sir John Guise stadium late last evening.
According to the statement, Kandai gave the official K20 and asked him to pass the paper with the information to the driver of a vehicle parked outside the stadium. Instead, the official went to a police vehicle parked inside the stadium grounds and asked to be brought to NCD metropolitan commander Supt Peter Guinness, who immediately issued the arrest order for Kandai.
“In light of this situation, I am now looking to appoint more neutral PNG Electoral Commission officers to take charge of both NCD provincial electorate and Moresby North-east open electorate,” Trawen said. 
Though seemingly isolated, this incident is part of a growing conflict involving 12 excluded boxes for Ward 6 of Moresby north – east between the electoral commission and a group of affected candidates.
Four-time contestant for Moresby North – east and current second-placed candidate, John Kaupa, is reluctantly caught in the middle of this conflict that is now drastically affecting the counting for the NCD regional seat.
According to Kaupa, Trawen’s claim that he is of the opinion that the boxes had been tempered with is absurd.
“The inner and outer seals on all 12 boxes are intact and ballot papers are safe and secure in the boxes which are still sitting in the containers at the stadium,” he said.
“I am of the mind that the commissioner (Trawen) has been ill-advised on the matter from the beginning and I appeal for his good judgment, to review this matter for what it is, a political conspiracy to hijack my rightful win, and allow the boxes to be counted.”
Incumbent Governor Powes Parkop came out strongly yesterday, saying ongoing issues in the open electorates should  not continue to hold the regional counting at ransom.