PNG Electoral Commission needs K4.56mil for Hela provincial recount

Picture: POST COURIER

PORT MORESBY, 04 JULY 2019 (THE NATIONAL) – Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission will need K4.56 million (US$1.34 million) to conduct a recount of the Hela provincial seat as ordered by the court, says Commissioner Patilias Gamato.

Gamato said the recount could start as early as 09 July in Tari if funds were secured.

“Hela is a challenging place and will require some security deployments,” Gamato said in a statement.

“The judicial recount will be done in Hela. However, if there are security threats, I may consider moving the counting to Mt Hagen (Western Highlands).” The seat was won by Philip Undialu in the 2017 general election.

Last Friday, the National Court ordered a recount after upholding the election petition filed by runner-up Francis Potape on the grounds of errors and omissions and illegal practice.

Justice Joseph Yagi was satisfied that petitioner Potape had successfully demonstrated that the result of the counting of the seat on July 23 2017 had been subject to tampering or manipulation which could have affected the result of the election. The court ordered the Electoral Commission to appoint an impartial and neutral returning officer, assistant returning officer and counting officials for the exercise.

The court also ordered that the recount be conducted within 30 days from the date of the order – June 28 2019.

Gamato said they did not have much time left.

“We have to start immediately. I have written to the Secretary for Treasury and Finance to identify some funds and allocate to the EC so that we can start the judicial recount as soon as possible.”

“If funds are secured, I expect the staff to be deployed over the weekend so that the judicial recount could start as early as Tuesday next week, 9 July 2019 in Tari.”

Gamato has also appointed the election manager for National Capital District Terence Hetinu as returning officer and Desmond Timiyaso, election manager for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as assistant returning officer.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister James Marape says the government will not defer the Local Level Government (LLG) elections again.

“Our LLGs are the anchor basis in which we operate from and we give them that recognition and we will not defer from our intention to have the elections conducted,” he said. “We are late by two and a half years. So, it’s better late than never.”

He said the Government was trying to work out “how best we could have the law reconciling the fact that we are late by two and half years”.

“We start the life of LLGs from now and also five years from the next election,” he said.

“That could be the way which we run LLG elections – two and a half years from the general election.”

Marape said K33 million (US$9.7 million) had been allocated out of the budgeted K100 million (US$29.4 million) and they would ensure that additional funding would be given to support the election.

“LLG is an important structure of the constitutional democracy.

“They anchor government at the lowest level as well as supporting government at the provincial level,” he said.

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