OPPOSITION PARTIES’ JOINT STATEMENT ON ELECTIONS SUPERVISOR
AND AMENDMENTS TO THE ELECTORAL DECREE

17 February 2017

The Social Democratic Liberal Party, National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party, the
Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Fiji United Freedom Party.

In a joint statement issued following a meeting on Thursday 16​
th
February, the leaders of the
five Opposition Parties called for the removal of the Supervisor of Elections and the
scrapping  of the elections portfolio assigned to the Attorney General.

“Free and fair elections are not possible in a situation where the ruling Fiji First Party is
exercising extraordinary control over the electoral machinery and the electoral process,” the
leaders said.

Supervisor of Elections

The Leaders said Mohammed Saneem’s initial appointment in 2013 had been questioned as
he did not meet the minimum qualifications required for the position, as advertised.

The previous Electoral Commission has drawn attention to the impropriety of his
appointment in its Annual Report for 2014 (para 3.1) in which it pointed out that Saneem’s
name was submitted by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum after he had informed
the Commission “​ that overseas applicants who had applied for the position were either not
suitable or were not available due to the passage of time​ .

“However, the Commissioners expressed some reservations in the manner the position of
Supervisor of Elections had been allowed to protract for such a long period since
applications for the position had been advertised in 2013”​ .

The Commission then suggested to the Attorney General that the position be re-advertised.
This was not done and Saneem was appointed despite the Commission’s reservation.

Hence the Electoral Commissioned appeared to have no choice but to accept the
recommendation of the Attorney General as the Minister for Election for Saneem to be
appointed as Supervisor of Elections.

Subsequent rulings by the Supervisor particularly in relation to the eligibility of political
party candidates nominated for the 2014 election showed his clear bias towards the Fiji First
Party. He made decisions knowing that they were wrong and then defied the rulings of the
Electoral Commission on a mere technicality.

The recent Appeals Court ruling has only confirmed Mr. Saneem’s unsuitability for this
important constitutional office. The Leaders said that it is unprecedented for a Supervisor to
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boldly defy the Electoral Commission.

2017 Amendment to Electoral Decree

The Leaders also objected to the recent amendment to the Electoral Decree which was fast
tracked through Parliament last week, appointing the Supervisor of Elections as secretary to
the Electoral Commission.

The amendments also prescribe powers to the Supervisor to overturn the results of the count
of a ballot box by a Presiding Officer and to do a recount. The amendments also impose
limitations and impediments on the Electoral Commission in the conduct of its
constitutionally mandated work.

“The amendment compromises the Electoral Commission which is the appeals body from the
decisions of the Supervisor and is a subversion of the independence of both the Supervisor
and the Commission which are two separate bodies with separate constitutional functions.

“It was aimed at ensuring the newly appointed Electoral Commission remained subservient to
the recently disgraced Supervisor of Elections,” the Leaders said.

The current situation has the Fiji First General Secretary actually controlling and
commandeering the process and making the rules as we move towards the next general
elections.

The rushed amendment also subverts the parliamentary process and interferes with the work
of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Justice which is still reviewing the
report of the Multinational Observer Group (MOG) on the 2014 Elections. The Leader’s
maintain that th​ e bill should not have come to the House until the report of the Standing
Committee on the same issue was tabled.

The MOG report includes recommendations for improvement of the electoral processes, laws
and procedures, which many political parties agree with. The Attorney General has cherry
picked and decided to implement only three of the thirty-eight MOG recommendations in the
recent fast-tracked amendment to the Electoral Decree.

Minister for Elections

In calling for the Elections ministerial portfolio to be scrapped, the Leaders said:

“The portfolio has been held by Attorney General Aiyaz Khaiyum since 2008. It is wrong in
principle for the General Secretary of the ruling party to hold the elections portfolio at the
same time as being Attorney General drafting laws and changing the rules for elections in
which he will participate.

“The current situation allows the Fiji First General Secretary to actually control the process
and make the rules as we move towards the next general elections, a serious conflict of
interest that the Prime Minister must remedy to assure the people of Fiji that their right to
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vote in free and fair elections is not being compromised by the Attorney General controlling
the electoral process.

“Free and fair elections require that all political parties operate on the same level playing
field, and have access to information about the upcoming elections at the same time.

“Both the Supervisor of Elections and the Electoral Commission are constitutional offices
and as such, should be independent of the executive arm. Besides, both the Prime Minister
and the Attorney General hold office in their political party and will likely contest the next
elections.”

The Leaders pointed out that in the past there was no ministerial portfolio for elections. For
necessary administrative accountability, the Prime Minister only tabled the Elections Office
submissions for budgetary allocations. ​ The PM’s administrative responsibility ended there.
He did not exercise control over the elections office or advise the Electoral Commission, or
otherwise interfere with its operations.

The Leaders also rejected several provisions of the Electoral and Voter Registration Decrees
promulgated unilaterally by the Bainimarama administration in March 2014 just 6 months
before the elections.

These matters will be pursued and more concrete actions deliberated on by the Party Leaders
in the coming weeks.

Authorised by:

➢ Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Party Leader Major General (Ret’d) S.L.
Rabuka
➢ Fiji Labour Party (FLP) Leader Mr. Mahendra P Chaudhry
➢ National Federation Party (NFP) Leader Dr. Biman Prasad
➢ Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Party President Ms. Lynda Tabuya
➢ Fiji United Freedom Party (FUFP) Party Leader Mr. Jagath Karunaratne

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Meeting the residents of Upper Pritam Singh Road, Tuirara. Majority of the residents are farmers and they claim to have paid the Fiji Government in 2006 for piped water supply and followed up with a written a petition but nothing has been done so far. They also said that the main water pipe runs from there but they have not been given piped water. They survive on rain and well water which are risky sources as water gets contaminated very easily.

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Today was the last time when Vikrant’s family members, neighbours and friends bid farewell to this young man. #SALUSPOPULI, this latin phrase has faded since 2006. Police Brutality at peak.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/324795/man-dies-in-fiji-police-cell-mother-claims-he-was-beaten

 

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While the PM calls for prayer to commemorate TC Winston victims, Higgins continues with the patch up exercise on potholes.

We’re sure the number of potholes must have sky-rocketted to more than the 50,000 cited by the FRA in December, 2016 — at an average price of $28/pothole.

~ http://www.fbc.com.fj/…/higgins-fiji-starts-repairs-on-poth

 

Here we go again with the PS as the faithful mouthpiece continuing with the high-level narrative that both he and his Minister will struggle to make good on ~ http://www.fbc.com.fj/…/education-ministry-to-embark-on-maj

 

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The NFP and the Opposition led a very spirited debate on this when they considered the Health budget allocation in the 2016 budget (under the then Minister for Health, Hon Jone Usamate) that allocated such a paltry amount for dialysis treatment.

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The NFP Whip, Hon Prem Singh rose to make an End of Week statement.

Below is the text of his intervention. (Please check against delivery) ~ Sigatoka Totoka

In response, the Agriculture Minister bellowed for dramatic effect, a shoddy response obfuscating the law, knowing full well that NFP had been in communication with the Minister’s Permanent Secretary as well as the Permanent Secretary for Environment and his Director, who responded with delays and silence.

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Madam Speaker

I rise to make an End of Week statement requesting that this august House, in the spirit of bipartisanship, call on the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management make publicly known the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the extraction of sand-ore (magnetite) in Kulukulu in line with the High Court Order of 2016 pertaining to the public’s entitlement to access and obtaining copies of EIA reports without restrictions.

Madam, during the business committee you will recall that there was confusion about the exact site that I wanted to speak about.

I intend to clarify that here and now.

We understand that the Australia parent company “Dome Gold Mines” has been granted SPL 1495 for the Sigatoka Ironsands Project where sand ore (magnetite) is the target mineral. We have seen the maps projected online and they are being transmitted on the feed now.

We also understand that SPL 1495 was inching towards a full mining license as at November 2016.

But Madam Speaker, we have been inundated with calls of concern from angry residents and communities who are situated near where the mouth of the Sigatoka river meets the sea, because of what looks to be like aggressive dredging happening there.

The public SPL 1495 documents provided by Dome show that part of their project includes dredging and this is our concern. There is no clarity on who is doing that dredging and what their parameters are.

The residents and communities that we have spoken to are outraged because of the environmental devastation that they see on a day to day basis.

The eyewitness accounts say that China Railway is doing the dredging for which the machines operate day and night, pausing for only 2 hours in a day causing sleepless nights for those in the immediate surrounds.

The Muasara wetland was an idyllic rivermouth environment with a natural beachfront and abundance of fish and thriving marine biodiversity. The local residents used to welcome surfers and locals who enjoyed that beautiful beach front. It is now a very sorry and ugly site. Environmental devastation Madam Speaker, and you don’t need to be a scientist to figure that out.

There are deadpools of still salt water stagnating there. The residents and local communities said that baby fish were seen dead along the shoreline. Dead fish floating in the river mouth have been sighted upstream in Lawai village and in waterways along the Coral Coast.

A Kulukulu farmer said his farm was totally destroyed because the dredging waste blocked the natural water drainage during the last heavy rains. His entire crops were swamped with the muddy slush and could not be saved.

Madam Speaker, every mining company knows the importance of a SOCIAL CONTRACT. When mining companies seek interest for investors to get on board, the first thing investors will look at is whether or not there is a SOCIAL CONTRACT. From the documentation that we have seen provided to the Australian Stock Exchange for transparency purposes, we know what Dome Mining has strong Japanese backing, with additional investment from China.

But Madam Speaker, the SOCIAL CONTRACT for SPL 1495 does not exist regardless of how effectively the regulators think they can manipulate consent, as we know they have been doing.

Madam Speaker, the Honourable Minister responsible for the EIA document for this project, is our Climate Champion. We commend that however we ask that it be proven here, first. In Fiji.

The importance of thriving marine ecosystems can not be understated and it is a crying shame that easy money is being sought through extraction, at the cost of the life of our environment and the livelihoods of the local community.

Madam Speaker, in order for Fiji to realize the potential of the micro-life we need to understand not only the minerals but the life and the genetic resources that we have. The muasara flats was teeming with life!

That is why, also related to this is the need for this House to see the draft laws that we know that is sitting in the Solicitor General’s Office related to “Traditional Knowledge Cultural Expression” to ensure that the genetic resources related to the Nagoya Protocol is understood and protected from pharmaceutical and such like interests. Those are also multi-billion dollar industries Madam Speaker, and our thriving biodiversity is a gold-mine — we just don’t know what we have.

If the Minister see’s fit to make the full EIA report publicly available, we — us and the people out there — can help him ensure that laws and regulations are upheld.

Fiji must come first.

I thank you Madam Speaker.

The only ones that seem to be feeling the “good news” on the economy are these Ministers of the Fiji First Government and their flashy suits.

How about those that are still living in tents, Mr Minister of the alternative economy??

#AnotherAlternativeFact #VoteOutFijiFirst.

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