NATION

Rabuka: Why We’re Losing Confidence in Supervisor of Elections, Electoral Commission

  Sitiveni Rabuka is Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Sitiveni Rabuka
01 Sep 2018 10:00
Rabuka: Why We’re Losing Confidence in Supervisor of Elections, Electoral Commission
Sitiveni Rabuka

 

Sitiveni Rabuka is Party Leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) and former Prime Minister. The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Sitiveni Rabuka and not of the Fiji Sun. This is Part One of his political views. Part Two continues next week.

CONTINUE FROM LAST WEEK

  • Refusal of the Electoral Com­mission to approve access to the Re­gional Hubs by party polling agents to observe the opening of ballot boxes by Presiding Officers.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Com­mission to confirm that counting at all Polling Stations will begin at 6.00pm on Polling Day.

Electoral Commission has con­firmed that this is the case at the National Count Center but refuses to confirm the same for all polling stations on polling day.

  • Refusal of the Electoral Com­mission to explain the involvement of NADRA with Fiji’s elections es­pecially after the recent Pakistan elections where it is under various investigations for irregularities.
  • Parties are disappointed at the extensive Pre-Poll venues where over 70,000 voters will vote and the lack of explanation from the Elec­toral Commission on how pre-poll venues were selected. Many pre-poll venues are accessible by road from urban centers and it is baf­fling why they are designated as pre-poll.
  • Refusal of the Electoral Com­mission to explain why 13 Polling Venues Designated for Disciplined Services are not identified in the list of polling venues for 2018, and why the names of voters for these 13 polling venues are not published in the Voter Roll released by the SOE on 1 August 2018.
  • Parties remain concerned that the Electoral Commission rejects the constitutional responsibility to ensure free and fair elections. Political parties believe this role in­cludes the responsibility to call for international and domestic observ­ers who should work to their own Terms of Reference rather than one imposed by the Minister re­sponsible for Elections, as in 2014.
  • Parties are gravely concerned about the Supervisor of Elections’ recent warning on voter education by Civil Society Organisations.

n It has been a long time practice and convention not to permit politi­cal campaign materials to be dis­played on land, buildings or prop­erty owned by the State, municipal councils and statutory bodies in­cluding government commercial companies.

This should be maintained. Public parks, playgrounds and recreation areas owned by the State or munici­pal councils should not be exploited for political purposes.

Citizens should be able to enjoy these facilities without being bom­barded with political messages. It is questionable that FijiFirst was allowed by municipal councils to lease huge billboards erected in public places in collaboration with an advertising company. This is clearly contrary to S112 of the Elec­toral Decree.

  • Parties remain concerned that Mohammad Saneem still does not meet the minimum qualification requirements (MQR) for the posi­tion of Supervisor of Elections. His appointment was irregularly made in 2014.

The Electoral Commission re­quested the Minister responsible for Elections to re-advertise the position after qualified applicants withdrew, yet Saneem was ap­pointed to the position despite not meeting the MQR. Furthermore, Mr Saneem’s insubordination to the Commission was confirmed by the High Court in 2017, and two complaints he has filed with FICAC have resulted in acquittals.

This has led to questions over whether he has demonstrated an overzealous misuse of his powers (cases against Ratu Isoa Tikoca and Mahendra Reddy).

  • Political Parties no longer have confidence in the independence, impartiality and credibility of the Chairman of the Electoral Com­mission Mr Chandra, and the Su­pervisor of Elections Mr Saneem and doubt their ability to deliver free, fair and credible elections for Fiji in 2018.

OBSERVATIONS MADE AT THE

MEETING OF AUGUST 9 2018 WITH ELECTORAL COMMISSION

Parties were directed that only Party Leaders and Registered Offic­ers may attend the meeting on 9th August 2018 and that “invitations were not transferable.”

Such a decision by the Electoral Commission is an interference with each Party’s decision making machinery and internal arrange­ments.

Parties should be able to make their own decision on their respec­tive representatives to a meeting with the Electoral Commission, based on their internal arrange­ments.

Questions and concerns raised by registered officers of political parties who attended the meet­ing on 9/8/18, were not answered or brushed aside by the Electoral Commission.

A notable feature of the meeting was the presence of the Minister responsible for Elections and Gen­eral Secretary of FijiFirst Party, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Rather than encouraging discus­sions on suggestions and recom­mendations made by other politi­cal parties to ensure free, fair and credible elections, he continued to demand what action the Electoral Commission had taken on the al­legations of religious intolerance against a particular provisionally selected candidate.

The Electoral Commission Chair­man, in his response, said they were yet to act on the complaint, while the Supervisor of Elections at the same time said he had filed a complaint with FICAC.

The Electoral Commission Chair­man as well as members of other political parties were taken by sur­prise at the outburst.

Those who attended the meeting were surprised to learn that the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) had already made a complaint to FICAC without the knowledge of the Elec­toral Commission.

The question was raised on the is­sue of “conflict of interest” where­by the General Secretary of the FFP is also the Minister responsi­ble for Elections.

As the Minister responsible for Elections, he helps to decide the date of the elections and has in­fluence over electoral laws, proce­dures and processes. At the same time, he is directing the FFP politi­cal campaign.

Questions were asked on how electoral laws can be transparently amended when the A-G, Mr Sayed- Khaiyum is also responsible for the drafting of laws, tabling them in Cabinet as Minister for Elections, while at the same time being Gen­eral Secretary for FijiFirst.

No satisfactory answer or re­sponse was given by the Mr Sayed- Khaiyum in either capacity as GS FFP or Minister Responsible for Elections.

Despite setbacks faced by political parties present, they remain unde­terred and committed to a free, fair and credible elections.

They urge all voters to remain steadfast and encourage everyone must register to vote, and to vote in their designated polling venue, whether at pre-poll or polling day, or postal voting.

Voters are urged to vote in num­bers to bring about political change that is necessary for our collective future.

Voters are also encouraged to ex­ercise their democratic rights and political freedoms in the formula­tion of our next government.

Voters can offer their services to political parties as polling agents in the 2018 General Elections.

Another alternative for considera­tion is for local groups and organi­sations that can be considered as domestic election observer groups. However, the approval of the Min­ister for Elections is required. In 2014 he refused to approve domestic observers.

Despite these setbacks, parties will continue to collectively work together towards a free, fair and credible 2018 elections.

NEED FOR INDEPENDENT ELECTION OBSERVERS

The Party leaders stressed the need for independent international and domestic observer groups to be present before, during and after the election to monitor the process and validate that the elections are free, fair and credible.

Independent Observers must be able to determine their own Terms of Reference (TOR), unlike in 2014 when the Minister for Elections de­cided their TOR.

CONCLUSION

Based on the lack of clarity, in­consistency and at times the non-response/or actions to concerns raised in the last 15 months on is­sues relating to free, fair and cred­ible elections, the Leaders of the six registered political parties re­iterated that they don’t have any confidence in the Chairman of the Electoral Commission and the Su­pervisor of Elections.

They are also of the view that the credibility, impartiality and inde­pendence of the two constitutional offices have been compromised.

The appointment of the Supervi­sor in 2014 is also questionable be­cause Mr Saneem did not meet the minimum qualification require­ments stipulated in the Constitu­tion. Source: Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA)



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