NEWS

Raj: No One Has Right To Decide For Others

Any individual in a position of authority whether a village headman, trade unionist or a political party leader does not have the right to make decisions for any other individual.
25 Jan 2018 10:42
Raj: No One Has Right To Decide For Others
Director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj

Any individual in a position of authority whether a village headman, trade unionist or a political party leader does not have the right to make decisions for any other individual.

Director of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, Ashwin Raj, made this statement, referring to a media report where a village headman stated that the people of his village did not want to vote in the upcoming general election.

The village headman said this was because infrastructure development had not reached their village.

Mr Raj said the right to vote was an expression of the will of the individual as recognised in Fiji’s Constitution and must be exercised without fear of reprisal and recrimination.

“Any person in a position of authority whether they be religious leaders, village heads, trade unionists, or political party leaders have no right to make decisions and impose unilaterally on the people they purport to represent on whether they can or cannot vote.”

He said such decisions made on behalf of individuals are contrary to an individual’s freedom to make political choices including the right to vote by secret ballot.

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem has called on the media to practise responsible reporting of such matters.

“It is important that there is good understanding of the electoral process so that media does not assist in disfranchising voters,” Mr Saneem said.

He said it was important for officials to convey information to the villages in an apolitical manner as there was a need to respect the rights of every individual to vote.

Mr Saneem said this was important because sometimes in a communal setting there would be some individual authorities that direct the order of events and manner of voting.

He said this limited the exercise of rights of people who were not so authoritative.

“Recently in the news, there has been a particular village that has now remarked that it will not vote, it’s questionable as to who exactly decided that,” he said.

“Whether all the women were consulted, whether all the youths were consulted. It questions the motive of publishing such news without any verifications.

“One person stands up and says ‘ok the whole village will not vote. It questions whether the individuals who are constitutionally entitled to vote were consulted and whether they all elected not to vote or all directed not to vote.”

He said the FEO would ensure that even in a place that says they would not vote, the FEO would still put up a polling station in the vicinity of that area.

He said this would allow anyone who wishes to exercise their right to go ahead and do so.

“People who obstruct voting can be criminally liable for their actions and in the event of a criminal case is found against them, relevant authorities will proceed with it,” Mr Saneem said.

“The FEO will not hesitate to take any such person to the relevant authorities for prosecution.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  losirene.lacanivalu@fijisun.com.fj

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