PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Radio Australia, Feb. 20) - A decision to be handed down Friday by Papua New Guinea’s Supreme court will determine which parts of the Southern Highlands province will be required to conduct supplementary elections.

The court ruling comes in the wake of last year’s disastrous national elections, which saw the results in six seats declared void.

Professor John Nonggorr, PNG Constitutional lawyer says the Electoral Commission was only able to declare three of the nine electorates in the Southern Highlands, following widespread violence.

"Out of the nine electorates in the Southern Highlands, including the provincial electorate, that’s the Solomon Islands provincial electorate, six were failed and three electorates were declared. Of the six that were failed a number of them challenged the decision by the Electoral Commissioner to fail the elections in the courts," said Nonggorr.

"Now the issue now before the court is just in relation to the provincial electorate in which the person who scored most of the votes, Hami Yawari, has asked the court to declare that the votes that he received from the three open electorates for the provincial seat be retained and carried over to be counted towards supplementary results conducted in the other electorates for the provincial seat," said Nonggorr.

"The fact of that decision will determine whether the provincial electorate only and here it relates only to the provincial electorate, not the other five open electorates that were failed. The decision will determine whether the Electoral Commission conducts an election in those three declared electorates for the people to vote for the provincial seat."

"If the court says the votes are valid they can be carried over then and the voters in those three declared electorates do not have to go to elections, there won’t be any election conducted for the provincial seat because their votes will be carried over and added to the votes for the provincial seat cast in the supplementary election in those other parts of the electorate."

"But if the court rules that those votes are invalid for the supplementary election then for the provincial seat electorate the Electoral Commission will conduct elections throughout the province, including those three open electorates where open elections were declared."

February 20, 2003

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