Electoral Petition Withdrawal

December 21st 2018

Joint Press release by NFP and SODELPA:

Nearly half of Fiji’s voters supported our parties in the 2018 election. This statement is issued to explain to them why we withdrew our election petition this week, after the ruling of the Court of Disputed Returns on our evidence.

The Court would not allow us to call 6 of our proposed 8 witnesses. Without that evidence, most of our case could not be proved. We would then be going into court to lose, risking a substantial order for costs.

What the Petition was about

Our petition claimed breaches of the Electoral Act by some Fiji First Party members. This included specific instances of campaigning in breach of the Electoral Act. We will now pursue these matters with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

We also wanted the Court to rule on the legality of the so-called “small business grants” scheme. The Fiji First government gave away more than $4.4 million to more than 4,000 people in the three weeks before the election.

Our petition also wanted to clarify the legal right of the Supervisor of Elections to re-count (or partially re-count) the contents of 27 ballot boxes, and the process he followed to verify postal ballots.

Court rules

The Electoral Act permits the Chief Justice to make rules for how the Court of Disputed Returns will operate. Two general elections have now taken place without any rules.

Where there are no rules, the High Court Rules must be followed. But those rules are not clear for electoral petitions. This is what led to yesterday’s ruling.

The 2013 Constitution says that an electoral petition must be decided in 21 days. So it was important to settle the procedure quickly. On the day we filed the Petition, we sought directions from the Court. As we know, the process was famously delayed by the 48-hour Fiji First Party “strategic workshop” when all Fiji First Party MPs avoided service of our petition.

Evidence

When they finally came to Court, the Fiji First Party argued that an electoral petition must be supported by affidavits (sworn statements). Our lawyers pointed out to the Court that this is not a requirement of the Electoral Act.

The Court ruled that only certain witnesses were allowed to give oral evidence. Based on our legal advice, we respectfully disagree with that ruling and the reasons for it. Unfortunately, the law gives us no right of appeal.

Effect of the ruling

The ruling means that there will be no clarity on the important legal issues that we raised. We urge the Chief Justice to now make proper rules for the Court of Disputed Returns. The legal process for challenging election results should be transparent and clear. Elections belong to the people. All electoral processes – including court challenges – should be clear.

Because we are commenting on legal issues and on legal advice, this will be our last official statement on the case.

The memory of “Level 9”

Fiji’s people will always remember this electoral petition, not for what was in it but for how the Fiji First Party responded to it. This may be the first time in history that a whole government would not come out of a room for two days to face a bailiff.

Authorised by:

Sitiveni L. Rabuka                         Prof. Biman Prasad

Leader of SODELPA                     Leader of NFP

Fiji more polarised than ever before

December 5, 2018: On the Occasion of the 12th year anniversary of the 2006 Military Coup

The National Federation Party says the country is more polarised than ever before 12 years after the 4thmilitary coup because of compartmentalisation of the two major ethnic groups due to racial bigotry used by the ruling Fiji First party during general elections campaign.

NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the myth from Government that the 2013 Constitution promotes common and equal citizenry has been destroyed as clearly seen from the results of the recent general elections.

“We recovered from the past coups. 10 years after the first coup in May 1987, the much acclaimed 1997 Constitution was passed by the House of Representatives, Senate and the Great Council of Chiefs”.

“Six years after the May 2000 coup a genuinely multiracial Cabinet based on power-sharing was appointed but overthrown on 5thDecember 2006 by the then military commander who is now Prime Minister”.

“Commander Bainimarama and his interim military Cabinet promised to return Fiji to normality and parliamentary democracy no later than 2009 but never did. Instead, it disregarded the rule of law by trashing a Fiji Court of Appeal ruling declaring the coup illegal and for elections to be held by August 2009”.

“They re-appointed themselves, imposed Public Emergency Regulations and violated all norms associated with a democracy. They abrogated the 1997 Constitution. Their decision to formulate a new Constitution through a participatory process turned out to be a cosmetic exercise when in December 2012 they burned a draft constitution formulated by the Ghai Commission”.

“Instead they imposed the 2013 Constitution with a view to entrenching their rule”.

“12 years later, their actions, both under the military regime and the Fiji First government, have resulted in compartmentalisation of the two major ethnic groups, resulting in a polarised nation”.

“This is the painful reality facing Fiji. The only way to restore harmony and peaceful co-existence is for all leaders to work together and for government to embrace bipartisanship in Parliament”.

 Authorised by: Professor Biman Prasad, Leader of the National Federation Party