Counting for the Madang Open Seat was suspended on Sunday 24th of July but later resumed on Tuesday the 26th after polling officials were not paid their allowance. Returning Officer of Madang Open Mr. Joe Sakipa, said that the polling officials that took part in polling are an automatic inclusion in the counting, therefore must be paid for the tasks they perform during polling and counting.
He said this issue was raised to the Election Manager of Madang and assured the officials that everything has been sent to the Electoral Commission in Port Moresby to process their payments accordingly after they have confirmed all their details. Once the issue was sorted out, an agreement was made and counting resumed.
“Since the resumption of counting on Tuesday, no major disturbances occurred, however, we did face a few more issues from the officials as well as from candidates and scrutineers in which we had to sort out quickly to avoid any more disruptions.”
Sakipa stated as for the officials, their allowance was not only the issue they faced but meals and accommodation were also two other factors hindering them from their work performance. He stressed that the officials must have decent meals provided for them in order for counting to run smoothly and that they have accommodation provided for them after counting is done for the day.
“Again, I had to bring this to the attention of the Election Manager and the steering committee in which they responded saying that they will assist in providing meals. We must understand that the officials begin counting as early as 6.30am, therefore breakfast, lunch and dinner must be provided for them.”
“As for accommodation, many of the officials reside outside of town which is quite far from the counting venue that is situated in town, I had to bring this to the attention of the Electoral Commission, through the Election Manager and to a success, accommodation was finally paid for with our officials now residing in town.”
Issues during counting did not stop there for the Returning Officer, as he had to deal with more issues but this time from scrutineers and candidates. Sakipa stated that the scrutineers had issues with the counting records claiming that the records they had did not match the ones of his and the officials. He explained to them that the records they took note of was exact and correct and that if there was an error made, then the scrutineers should be the ones to double check their records.
Apart from this, there were some grievances from one of the candidates who said that the polling teams did not follow the gazette polling schedule. Sakipa explained that from the start of the Issue of Writs, the nomination and polling had to be done quickly and finish on time since the Issue of Writs occurred around the same time as passing of the Deputy Prime Minister, Sam Basil’s. He explained that during that time, another polling schedule had to be done quickly as well increase the number of polling teams so that the nominations and polling could be completed on time.
“We sent the schedule to the Electoral Commission in Port Moresby in which the gazette was late, therefore was seen as something the candidates did not agree with.”
Sakipa further explained to the candidates that if they have such issues like this, there is a normal process they can follow and that rightful process to follow is through the court.
“There is only one avenue that they must follow and that is getting a court order if they want me stop counting and if they wish, can always take note and after the declaration has been done, they can bring it up to the court of dispute of returns. Otherwise, candidates do not have the power or the order to stop counting.”
In addition to this, Sakipa added that end of the day there can only be one winner and that he and his officials are not responsible for the outcome of the counting on whether a candidate wins or loses because that is in the hands of the voters and how you present yourself during campaigning.
Madang Open covers three LLGs, Ambenob, Transgogol and Madang Urban and have a total of sixty-seven ballot boxes; twenty boxes for Ambenob, thirty-six for Madang Urban and eleven for Transgogol.