Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum is not a neutral voice and should be cautious in what he says in his different roles. He has compromised himself by holding too many conflicting positions as General secretary for the Fiji First Party, candidate and Attorney General and Minister for Elections. He is not an objective voice.
In the last few days we have read and seen the Minister Responsible for Elections, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, make statements to the media which cannot remain unchallenged. This is on the electoral process, in relation to the appeals and objections to the Electoral Commission and on the High Court case between the Commission and the Supervisor of Elections.
The NFP further states that he Electoral Commission was correct in seeking independent legal advice, when required, even if this is obtained off-shore. It is preposterous of Mr Sayed-Khaiyum to suggest that the Commission obtain advice from his Chambers, or from the Solicitor General. The Commission must be seen to be independent from Mr Sayed-Khaiyum’s office, one of which is the office of the Attorney General whose most senior officer is the Solicitor General.
In the past elections, it has been the custom that legal advice from both the Supervisor of Election’s Office and its Commission be sourced from non-government sources – for obvious reasons! This is obviously not apparent to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and we spell it out here – this to ensure there is transparency and independence between the two offices when they make important decisions in the electoral processes.
More importantly, it also protects the offices from charges of bias towards any political party especially in the particular circumstances that we have spelt out. The task of conducting elections is the responsibility of the Commission and the Elections Supervisor, not the Minister for Elections.
We would therefore urge both offices to continue to seek legal opinion as and when the need arises from outside government sources because of the clear conflict and compromised position of the Attorney General and Minister of Elections and the general secretary of Fiji First. We re-iterate that the Supervisor and Electoral Commission must be allowed to perform their constitutional role without any semblance of interference from the current government.