COURT DECLARES PNG HIGHLANDS ELECTION NULL AND VOID

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By-election for President of local government to come

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 28, 2009) – The National Court in Mt Hagen yesterday declared the election of Charles Apalu as president of the Awi-Pori local level government in Tari, Southern Highlands, as null and void.

Senior resident National Court judge Justice Allen David granted a consent order sought by plaintiff Ailo Arapa, who challenged the legality of the election of Mr Apalu as Awi Pori LLG president during the 2008 LLG election in the province.

The court also ordered that the election for the post of Awi Pori LLG president for the purposes of the 2008 LLG elections be held within two months from yesterday.

It further ordered that the district administrator of Koroba-Lake Kopiago and chief executive officer for Awi-Pori LLG, James Tapale, or his delegate chair the re-election of the Awi-Pori president and this must be facilitated at Awi-Pori LLG council chambers at Tugu village in Pori or at another chamber decided by Mr. Tapale or his delegate as required under the standing orders.

The parties were also ordered to bear their own costs.

In the originating summons filed before the court, Mr. Arapa asked that Mr. Apalu’s election as president on Aug 18 last year be declared null and void because the date for the inaugural meeting for the election was scheduled for Tari on Aug 12, 2008, in accordance with the standing order of Awi Pori LLG as adopted.

Mr Arapa claimed that the meeting for the president’s election scheduled in Tari on Aug 12, 2008, had the quorum to meet but instead was suspended and postponed citing lack of quorum.

He claimed that had the meeting proceeded, he would have won the president’s post by 11-10 votes.

Mr Arapa further claimed that the meeting next day in Tari on Aug 13, 2008, was also proper when the councillors elected were sworn in followed by the election of the president.

He said when the voting results for president drew 11 votes each on two instances, there should have been a draw to determine the winner but this did not happen.

He claimed the election was then held in Mendi on Aug 19, 2008, and that should not have happened as it was well beyond the required 15-day period after the writs were returned.

He said in the Mendi meeting, two councillors-elect, James Huriawi and Siamele Taya, who attended the meeting, were not sworn in as yet.

Arapa said also the Mendi meeting again had two draws with both camps locked at 11 votes apiece and, therefore, a draw was required as provided under the law, but instead Mr Tapale went ahead to declare Apalu the winner without calling for a lucky-dip draw.

Arapa, councillor of Kewe 1 ward in Awi Pori, through his counsel Danny Gonol of Paulus Kunai Lawyers in Mt Hagen, successfully obtained the order for the by-election of the Awi Pori president while nullifying the election of incumbent Apalu.

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