Bid to stay new electorates in PNG election


Papua New Guinea Supreme Court will hear an application by opposition leader Belden Namah on whether Parliament’s decision to create 13 new electorates as per the report and recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission can be stayed pending a full Supreme Court interpretation at a later date.

The application seeking interim stay orders will be heard next Wednesday, 18 May.

The matter will go before a one-man bench of the Supreme Court.

Namah, in his application filed on 21 April, is asking the Supreme Court to restrain the State, the Electoral Commission and their agents from giving any force or effect to the redistribution of electorates as approved by Parliament on the 22 of March pending the hearing and determination of a section 18 application that he filed on the 10 April.

He is also asking the Supreme Court to direct that pending the hearing and determination of his section 18 application, the State and the Electoral Commission, with their agents, are required to conduct the 2022 National General Elections as though the redistribution approved by Parliament on 22 March, had not been made; that is on the basis of boundaries for the electorates to remain the same as in the 2017 national election.

Alternatively, he is asking for a stay of the decision of the National Parliament to approve the 2021 report and recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, so that conduct of the 2022 elections will be completed as though the redistribution approved by the National Parliament on March 2022 had not been made; that is on the basis of the boundaries for the Electorates remaining the same as in the 2017 national election.

The substantive section 18 application is basically seeking the full bench’s opinion and interpretation of whether an ex officio member of the Electoral Boundaries Commission and National Statistician John Igitoi’s projections on the census of population published in the report are valid under the Constitution in that his term as acting National Statistician expired in 2019.

Namah will be contending that, consequently, Igitoi’s projections are invalid in that he was not at any material time the national statistician.

Meanwhile, 43 out of the 53 registered political parties have signed an Election Code of Conduct for political parties and candidates yesterday at the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties and Candidates in Port Moresby.

The signing is to ensure that the integrity of the electoral process is maintained at all times, promote orderly conduct of elections and foster a peaceful campaign environment in the country.

The agreement between the 43 parties and the PNG Electoral Commission with the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission was to set out the principles and standards of political parties, candidates, scrutineers and supporters during the election period.

Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates Commission Chairman Rev Roger Joseph said the commission wants to see all registered political parties conduct their political activities within the existing elections laws.

He urged all political parties to help the authorities deliver a free, fair and safe election for the people and the country.

“Political Parties and candidates are major players in the election process and it begins right after nomination,” Rev Joseph said.

Acting registrar of Political Parties and Candidates Emmanuel Pok also said the signing is important to instil integrity in the election process.

“This formal oath taken by political parties is an important step taken up as key stakeholders in the election process to contribute in making this election free and fair for all citizens,” he said.

Pok said political parties were fundamental vehicles for the democratic contestation of power in the electoral process depending on how political parties conduct themselves which can either fuel or aggravate violation of election laws.

In another development, a gazettal notice containing names of 118 polling officials, dated Friday 06 May, 2022 has been leaked to the public, surprising the Electoral Commissioner, and forcing the Government Printing Office to distance itself from the breach.

Electoral Commissioner Simon Sinai was shocked when contacted. He said the list has not been signed and released to the GPO for printing.

Government Printer Christine Lenturut also said that her office has not been given official instruments to print the gazettal notice and that they were still waiting on Mr Sinai to send the official gazettal for printing.

“We have not received any official notice from the Electoral Commission, we are still waiting for the gazettal to be printed,” Lenturut said.

The unsigned gazettal notice was leaked without any announcement by the Electoral Commissioner.

It was expected of Sinai to officially release the Monday but it was leaked before he could do that.

At the end of the day, he did not make the announcement.

On the list are the 22 provincial returning officers and the 96 returning officers for all the electorates, including the seven new electorates created recently by Parliament. Returning officers will then appoint their assistant returning officers.

Members of Parliament and intending candidates eagerly await this list in every election year to see who will be managing the elections in their respective electorates.

This leaked list is the reason Western Highlands and New Ireland leaders have been up in arms with the PNGEC for appointing alleged “conflict-of-interest” persons who have outstanding issues from the 2017 elections.

Returning officers are the engineers of the election, as under the delegation of powers and functions, they ensure that the conduct of candidate nomination, polling and scrutiny in their assigned electorates are performed in accordance with the provisions of the electoral laws and regulations.

They resolve election-related disputes that may be referred to them during the course of nomination, campaigning, polling and scrutiny in accordance with the electoral laws and regulations.

They exercise the powers and functions of candidate nomination, polling, scrutiny and count among many others, including returning the signed writ to the Electoral Commissioner.