The High Court yesterday delivered a ruling which effectively struck out all the evidence in which the Petitioner Mr Gordon Darcy Lilo was going to rely on to support the remaining allegations of bribery and undue influence.
Earlier in January this year the Chief Justice struck out the majority of the allegations against Honourable Tanagada and the Returning Officer and the Electoral Commission but ruled that there were sufficient evidence to proceed to trial on the remaining grounds. However, on 5 March 2020 Mr Rano on behalf of Honourable Tanagada filed a list of objections against the Sworn Statements of Junior Gio, Charles Bati, Fred Dollar, Killy Luta, Ben Ma’aria, George Bui and Gordon Darcy Lilo on grounds that the evidence in those Sworn Statements were hearsay, speculative and conjecture. In other words the evidence were not those that could be relied on in a trial.
On hearing of the objections on 5 March 2020, Justice Higgins made an oral ruling striking out all the sworn statements. On 12 March 2020, Justice Higgins delivered his written ruling effectively striking out all the sworn statements on grounds of hearsay. Justice Higgins went on further to rule that even of all the sworn statements were to be admitted there is no still no sufficient evidence that would warrant any finding of guilt on the part of the First Respondent, Honourable Tanagada. Justice Higgins added that in any event the First Respondent had never been charged and convicted so that Section 129 of the Electoral Act would apply.
This morning following attempts by Counsel for the Petitioner Mrs Tongarutu to derail Mr Rano’s application to strike out, Justice Higgins went on to dismiss the Mr Lilo’s petition following application by Mr Rano pursuant to Section 111 (b) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2018.
Effectively what this means is that Honourable Tanagada was duly elected and returned on 3 April 2019 as the Member of Parliament for Gizo/Kolombangara. Honourable Tanagada had previously beaten Mr Lilo in a by-election in 2018 following Mr Lilo’s successful challenged to her husband’s election in 2014. Honourable Tanagada beat Mr Lilo for the second time on 3 April 2019.