By Winterford Toreas
National Court judge, Justice Colin Makail, last week dismissed the election petition case against the member for Lato constituency in the Bougainville House of Representatives.
Justice Makail then ordered the petitioner, Patrick Leslie to meet the respondents’ costs on solicitor/client basis.
The hearing which took place at the Buka Courthouse followed a petition filed by Mr Leslie against the declaration of Mr Christopher Kena as the duly elected member for Lato constituency in the Bana District of South Bougainville during the 2015 ABG General Elections.
Mr Leslie had stated that one of the ballot boxes was tampered with after two of the outer seals and two inner seals were removed during the polling period and, therefore, all ballot papers in that ballot box should not be counted.
However, the South Bougainville Returning Officer Sam Roroga had ordered the counting of these ballot papers after seeing that the number of papers in that box corresponded with the presiding officer’s returns.
Mr Kena is the first respondent while the South Bougainville Returning Officer, the Acting Bougainville Electoral Commissioner George Manu, and the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner are the second, third and fourth respondents respectively.
As he dismissed the case on Monday 4 April, Justice Makail also made the ruling that the second, third and fourth respondents’ motion handed up in court is upheld and that the petitioner shall pay the second, third and fourth respondents’ costs on solicitor/client basis, to be taxed, if not agreed.
The Court also ordered that the security deposit of K2,000 by Mr Leslie be paid towards satisfying the fourth respondent’s legal costs.
The Acting Bougainville Electoral Commissioner, Mr George Manu when commenting on the court decision, said this shows that there were no sinister activities taking place and that the election was conducted in a free, fair and transparent manner.
“The decision by the court shows that we had conducted our election in a free, fair and transparent environment,” said Mr Manu, “and that Mr Kena was the duly elected member for Lato constituency.”
“To the people of Lato constituency, the court has decided that Mr Kena is your duly elected member in the Bougainville House of Representatives.”
Mr Manu also commended all polling and counting officials for their transparent stand throughout the election period.
This election petition case is one of the two disputed cases that were registered following the completion of the 2015 ABG General Elections.
The other case was filed by the runner-up of the Tsitalato constituency seat disputing the declaration of Fidelis Semoso as the duly elected member of Tsitalato constituency.