PNG Judge Warns Election Petitioners Over Evidence

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Burden wholly on petitioners to provide documentation

By Todagia Kelola

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 11, 2012) – Election petition in Papua New Guinea matters are very serious and those who are bringing these challenges must exercise great care when bringing them up. Requirements under the Election Petition rules and other rules of the National Court must be observed stringently when bringing it up in court because any small oversight may be fatal to the entire petition in that it may be struck out prematurely without the real merit of the petition being heard and determined. That’s from Election Petition Judge Administrator Collin Makail yesterday while dealing with a petition by a losing candidate from the Komo Magarima electorate, Adward Ekanda Alina, challenging the win of Francis Potape.

Mr. Alina’s lawyer had made an application for the court to allow his client to make a substitute service to the first respondent Francis Potape and the second respondent the Returning officer for Komo Magarima electorate after they could not personally serve the documents on them within the required 14 days after filing in the National Court Registry.

But when Justice Makail perused the evidence contained in the affidavits that were tendered, there were no specific dates and specific locations that the petitioner had tried to serve the documents to the respondents.

This brought the ire of the judge "I have to know when the petitioner attempted to serve… you talk about hotels in the National Capital District, there are many hotels in the city… that’s not good enough, the onus is on you to satisfy the court so that it can use its discretion… you know very well that you are required to put the exact dates, it’s not a matter for the petitioner to come to court and tell the court that he had done everything without fully satisfying the court"

Justice Makail then issued a general warning to all petitioners and their lawyers.

"It is incumbent on the petitioner and their lawyers to provide evidence, reminder to all petitioners and lawyers, election petitions are not to be taken lightly…great care must be exercised to bring those petitions, there are discretions available to the courts to use but petitioners and their lawyers must observe the rules" he said, and he warned that he won’t hesitate to strike out petitions that don’t comply with the rules.

He granted a one day adjournment for the petitioner and his lawyer to fully comply with the evidence rules.

Meanwhile eight other election petitions also went before Justice Makail yesterday, former Correctional Services Minister Tony Aimo is challenging the win of Ezekiel Anis for the Ambunti Drekirkir seat ,runner up of the Komo Magarima seat Manasseh Makiba is disputing Francis Potape’s election, Leonard Louma is disputing Douglas Tomuriesa for the Kiriwina Goodenough seat, John Kekeno against Philip Undialu for the Koroba lake Kopiago, Jimmy Maladina against Charles Abel for the Alotau open seat, Johnny Philip and George Tagobe against James Marape for the Tari Pori open seat.

Tonny Aimos petition is now in its status conference stages while the others were urgent applications seeking the courts approval for an extension of time to fully comply with requirements under the National Court Election petition rules.

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