SODELPA standing by criticism of access to Fiji's voter register | Pacific Beat

SODELPA standing by criticism of access to Fiji's voter register

SODELPA standing by criticism of access to Fiji's voter register

Updated 4 October 2013, 16:22 AEST

An opposition political party in Fiji claims that the country's register of voters is not being made freely available to the public.

This is despite denials of this claim by the coup installed military government, which insists that the list of registered voters is available to individuals and political parties if they request it.

The Ministry of Information has issued a press release criticising the Fiji Times for reporting the comments by SODELPA spokesman Dr Tupeni Baba, and accusing the paper of misleading its readers by reporting what it says were factually inaccurate statement.

And the Fiji Labour Party has joined in, writing to the Registrar to complain that the register is hidden from public view by being held in an electronic format and accessible only by selected members of his staff who have its access code.

Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry says this can hardly be construed to mean that the Register is accessible to the public, as claimed by the Attorney General.

He says by not making copies of the register available to political parties, it shows a reluctance on the part of the authorities to observe the rules of transparency and accountability.

Dr Baba is standing by his criticism of the way access to the register is being handled.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Dr Tupeni Baba, spokesman, SODELPA party, Fiji

BABA: The problem is in the past, the system was, we allowed all the parties to have a copy each of the constituencies and then were allowed to buy extra copies from the printing office, the government printing office. They sell them for a reasonable cost and then we copy that or make that available in all our offices and also make it available in the Commissioners Office in every division and sometimes in the Post Office and the other critical areas, town council offices in the cane area, so that people can walk up there, have a look at it or go to their political party office and they see the list there in hard print. So there about a third of the people here without electricity.

HILL: Is that not happening today with the new list though?

BABA: It is not happening at all. The data base belongs to them, to the government, particularly under the ...?? of political parties.

The last time we all had access was in April of this year, when we were required to produce 5,000 names and send it over to the registrar of political parties. He made a correction to those, because we didn't have any lease up to that time and we asked him to make it available to us for a little while. We were allowed no more than a couple of hours. We asked for a copy. They said no, we have the copy and we were able to see it in their office and that's all the access that we have so far. And now, I'm surprised to hear that they arguing that it's available and accessible, accessible means they have the data base, they have the password, they put in the machine, you can view it out there. Now, what about our people everywhere in other parts of Fiji who haven't got electricity, they don't have internet. So I think they a bit worried about our getting this information out, because when you control the roll, you virtually control the election.

HILL: But we have a statement from the Ministry of Information in Fiji denying this, and saying that this is absolutely incorrect. They say the National Register of Voters is and always has been available to both individuals and political parties, and saying that three of your own members inspect and well, this is simply not true and actually having a go at the media for having reported your original claim?

BABA: That is inaccurate. We had access after requesting from the Registrar of Political Parties. When we wanted to get registered 5,000 votes which was required at the time, a very stiff number, and then we asked them can we look at our corrections against your data base, which we were allowed for no more than a couple of hours, a limited time, when they're in their office and the Registrar was there. We asked our men to ask them to give us a copy of the electronic copy and they said no, it is not available.

Now in the past, they used to print out the roll, because we can take it to villages and settlements in the cane areas outside the main cities and people will see their name. We can leave it over there for them to inspect in the shops, or in the Commissioner's office, in the provincial office. So now that we are highlighting this, we are telling them they are not being transparent. They want to control the roll. If you can control the roll, you can manipulate the election. There is a real danger of that.

HILL: How would they do that? How would control the rolls mean you could manipulate the results of the election?

BABA: Well, we wouldn't know. When we go to an area, when the people are voting, you would know who is voting. We need to know who is voting externally. There should be an external roll so we know which ones are voting and then everybody overseas whose a Fijian passport can vote, because there is that passport may have expired and stuff like that. But if we have the list, then we can monitor by the roll.

If you Bruce, ring all the major political parties, the Labour Party, the Federation Party and us are the most experienced parties in Fiji at the moment. We have fought so many lessons and we know the system. These guys in the Registrar's office and in the AG's office have never fought any lessons in their whole life, right, accessing the roll means to them that we can request them and then we can come to their office. We are not speaking for ourselves. We're talking about our farmers and our villages and our settlement people out there who want to have a look at their names, make sure that the village, the community has already registered. That they are denying us and we demand that these rolls be available to us in the way that it was before.

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