Western Highlands Candidates Give PNG Electoral Commissioner 7 Days To Remove Election Officials

Threatens to shut down airport if demand not heeded; Returning officer accused of misdeeds during 2012 poll

By Daniel Gerson

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 1, 2017) – Twelve candidates for Hagen open seat in Western Highlands Province have given PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato seven days to revoke the appointment of returning officer Paul Goimba and assistant returning officer Andrew Kerowa.

The 12 candidates, led by Simon Sanakge, James Yoka Ekip, David Yak, Joseph Ken and Benjamin Ketegu, said in their petition, which was signed by 5000 people, yesterday that they will shut down Kagamuga International Airport if Mr Gamato fails to respond positively to their seven-day ultimatum.

Independent candidates Simon Sanagke and James Yoka Ekip who contested the 2007 and 2012 elections said: “As leaders and concerned citizens we bring to the attention of PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato that Western Highlands provincial election steering committee members have not recommended the appointment of Hagen Open electorate returning officer and assistant returning officer.”

In a letter dated May 9 to Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato, Deputy Commissioner John Kalamoroh, Western Highlands election manager Philip Talape, chairman of Western Highland election steering committee Stanley Maip, and Transparency International the petitioners called on Mr Gamato to revoke Mr Goimba and Mr Kerowa’s appointments claiming that their previous engagement in Hagen Open Electorate had been full of controversies.

The 2012 Hagen Open runner-up and Independent candidate James Yoka Ekip claimed that 22 ballot boxes had been set aside that had denied people of Hagen Open their democratic rights to vote a leader of their choice. Another issue raised was of inflated roll from 3500 to 11,000 voters in a certain area.

They pleaded with Mr Gamato to use his constitutional powers to revoke the appointments and replace the two with officers from other districts of Mt Hagen.

Mr Gamato had made his stance known in an earlier news release several days ago that there would be no changes to returning officers and assistant returning officers.

Evidence must be presented to the courts to change a returning officer, he said.

“These are key officials within the Commission, I am and will continue my stand and will support the RO and ARO who are already in their respective provinces, if you want to change them, have evidence, and have that evidence taken to court,” Mr Gamato told Post-Courier last Friday.

“I will work with the returning officers and assistant returning officers I have and will continue to support them.”

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