Concern over Saneem appointment as Fiji Election Supervisor | Pacific Beat

Concern over Saneem appointment as Fiji Election Supervisor

Concern over Saneem appointment as Fiji Election Supervisor

Updated 31 March 2014, 9:45 AEDT

The promised election to return Fiji to democracy has been set for Wednesday September 17th.

The day will be a paid public holiday so as many people as possible will have the chance to vote in a democratic election for the first time in eight years.

In a second major announcement, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has said that none of the 13 applicants for the role of elections supervisor met the government's criteria.

Mohammed Saneem will take up the post today, after resigning as acting Permanent Secretary for Justice.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Reverend Akuila Yabaki, Chief Executive, Citizen's Constitutional Forum, Fiji


YABAKI: It's a welcome announcement that a long waited electoral decree of which this appointment of Supervisor of Elections is part of has been made and I think that's welcome, September elections brought forward to 15th. Wednesday, update yes. Out of two concerns having had just a quick look at the decree, first the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections, as you have mentioned Mohammed Saneem. I was wondering about the criteria, whether he met all the criteria to ensure independence, experience for instance and I think all those things. I've asked that question and I'm sure there will be a response, but it's taken a long time to find one, but I believe there were 13 names and all sorts of reasons were given to have settled for someone relatively young and just wondering whether the criteria for appointing an independent Supervisor of Elections, I'm just wondering whether this criteria were met in this election.
EWART: Bearing in mind the reservations that you're raising there, are you to some degree reassured by the news that it came from the Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, that there will be two Australian experts working in key positions, one of whom will be the Deputy Supervisor of Elections, the other will take up the role as Director of Operations. Does that help to, as it were, address the issues that you've raised about the possibility that Mohammed Saneem might not necessarily be sufficiently qualified for the job?
YABAKI: Yeah, well the proof is the eating, if he's planted ?? there, then the contributions of those two other Australians would be conditioned by having as their Chief, ie. such a  person whom I've tried to describe and raised questions about.
EWART: What impact do you think that that particular of role of Elections Officer could have on what happens between now and September 17th. if he's not, as it were, sufficiently experienced as you're suggesting and you've asked the question, you wait for the answer from government. But they've said themselves they had 13 applicants, none of whom met the criteria. It doesn't sound like a very good start?
YABAKI: Yeah, I think international standards of elections, you would look at three critical positions, one is the Supervisor of Elections, another one is the observation, observing of elections, Supervisor of Elections would look at the validity of the process, of election process, observation. They do make reports at the end. But I think there's a key one, which is absent, that is the monitoring. Monitoring it's about being able to intervene through the course of elections, whistleblowing process and as whether that is being heard in the current multi-decrees which cover the situations in this country. 
Having talked to international partners, quite a few over the last few weeks, there is scepticism whether monitoring will be allowed. So my response to that it, beginning back to base, it's not likely to be free and fair elections and the international community are not so much interested in who wins, but as long as we have election and be able to have a  parliament and the parliament and I would agree, a parliament within which we can also continue the task of ensuring that the following elections, things might be better, but we need to have amendments in the parliament.
But another point I was going to bring up is the Section 115 of the decree defines what campaigning, well, I'm not a lawyer, so it says that civil society, like myself, my organisation cannot engage in campaigning. Well, I think the work that we've done this far cannot be seen as campaigning for a political party. We are non-aligned to any political party and CCR is a pro-democracy movement, we do not campaign for any particular party, but we resource the process, we engage with all stakeholders, individual citizens and organisations and I was out at a National Federation Party Convention last weekend, we were able to distribute our booklets on the commentary, on the Constitution, and up to 500 copies were distributed at that quite a massive gathering down in Nadi, in Nadi airport. So that's the sort of work we do, but we do not campaign. We comment, we provide critical and alternative views, but we never support any particular party. We want that to be made clear.

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