By Meriba Tulo – EMTV News, Port Moresby
The Writs for 6,375 Local Level Government Elections were issued yesterday, to begin the formal election process for ward councillors throughout the country.
The elections, delayed by a year, seemed to be on track, with Inter-Government Relations Minister Kevin Isifu signing the final writs to allow for the commencement of the LLG Election process at 10am yesterday.
The National Government had committed K100 million towards the LLG Election exercise, with K30 million received. The Electoral Commissioner was confident that the Government would fulfil their financial commitment prior to the commencement of polling to ensure successful elections throughout the country.
At the issue of Writs, Chief Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato, again reiterated the confirmed dates for the elections, beginning with the start of nominations at 4pm yesterday afternoon.
Gamato also clarifying that the Limited Preferential Voting system would be used in these elections. He also reiterated that the elections would only be for Ward Councillors, with LLG Presidents to appoint LLG Presidents – this decision in line with a resolution by the National Executive Council in March 2018.
The NEC decision of March 8, 2018 effectively disallowed direct election of LLG Presidents in the 2019 LLG election process – an issue that has been a point of contention.
This issue came to the fore yesterday, through the Supreme Courts soon after the writs were issued, the LLG Elections first hurdle.
The Supreme Court ordered the temporary suspension of LLG Elections. This followed a Supreme Court Reference filed by the East Sepik Provincial Government, challenging a Cabinet decision that disallowed the election of local level government presidents.
As per the NEC directive, LLG presidents would be appointed by ward members in an assembly.
Governor Allan Bird, argued that the decision to report to a mere appointment, and not election, of LLG presidents is a direct interference of the National Executive Council on an electoral process in the third tier of government.
Yesterday afternoon, newly appointed Attorney General Alfred Manase addressed the media – acknowledging the decision of the Supreme Court earlier in the day, which effectively halted the progress of the LLG elections, until such time it dealt with the issues raised by aggrieved parties.
According to Minister Manase, the State will be applying to have these Stay Orders set aside, to allow LLG elections to proceed as planned, for the benefit of the people.
The Minister also questioning the timing of the Supreme Court References, especially on the eve of the issuing of LLG Election Writs.