Following a briefing with the Electoral Commissioner on Sunday, 24 July 2022, the Secretary to the Department of Prime Minister & National Executive Council and the Chairman of the Interdepartmental Election Committee, Ivan Pomaleu, has again called for counting right across the country to be speeded up.
“I have noted that the country has now moved into counting. The writs must be returned by 29th July 2022. That date is the fifth anniversary of this Parliament. This is where the clock stops. We all must make sure we meet the time. I cannot express seriously enough the need for writs to be returned by this Friday.”
Secretary Pomaleu has noted that a significant number of provinces are now well and truly into their counting phases. He is encouraging them to conclude the process as soon as practicable.
He is calling for all stakeholders in the process to make sure that counting progress is uninterrupted this week. He has again called on the Electoral Commissioner and his officers to increase the shifts and undertake multiple LLG counting so that we catch up with time.
“It is time to deploy more personnel, beef up security, and undertake shift counting, to complete the tasks at hand. I want to assure election workers that their allowances have been released to the Electoral Commission and they will be paid for their services, if not already. Any disruptions during the counting on account of unpaid allowances is unacceptable.”
Secretary Pomaleu has noted that disputes and petitions have continued to disrupt counting in parts of the country.
He has again called for candidates and their supporters to respect the dispute resolution pathways and follow those prescribed pathways to raise their concerns.
“The rights of candidates to raise issues are respected. But we will come to a point where this must be balanced with the rights of the electorate to be represented, and the rights of other candidates and our people who want to see counting proceed without disruptions. Your rights must never conflict with the rights of others who would like to see the process moving, and the fundamental right of the electorate to be represented when Parliament meets.”
He admits that a lot of questions have been asked of lawyers on this matter but for now, it is not clear that any incomplete process can be saved legally after 29th July 2022.
“It is not being alarmist but to, as best as possible, play a duty of care to remind candidates, supporters, voters, electoral officials, and security personnel how high the stakes are. It is my call that all counting processes must be completed well before the date, as the Electoral Commission puts together administrative plans to ensure that all writs are physically in Port Moresby by this Friday, before close of business.”
Pomaleu explained that at the counting centres, returning officers and assistant returning officers are there to administer the counting process. They are not sufficiently equipped nor empowered to fairly determine the merits of each specific petition, especially if their own conduct is being brought into question.
“When you call the conduct of the Electoral Commission into question, you should not expect the Electoral Commission itself to deal with the question. This is why we have the courts. To admit and fairly determine an outcome of any questions, based on facts and the amount of evidence placed before it. It is necessary that all candidates and their supporters understand this and allow the process of counting to progress uninterrupted this week. This is the time to demonstrate leadership and maturity by all stakeholders as critical constitutional questions are before us as we count down the next couple of days,” he said.