Bainimarama Questions FEO Impartiality, Elections Office Defends Decision

Fiji’s Acting Supervisor of Elections and Acting Registrar of Political Parties Ana Mataiciwa pointed out that the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) can only take action when formal complaints are submitted, and lacks investigative powers, advising Voreqe Bainimarama to raise the matter with the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption if dissatisfied with the elections office’s decision.

Her response came in the wake of concerns raised by the former Prime Minister and FijiFirst leader regarding the actions of Ro Teimumu Kepa and the FEO’s decision-making, raising questions about its impartiality.

Bainimarama argued that Ro Teimumu should not have accepted appointments to the boards of Airports Fiji Limited and TSLS while still being a member of the SODELPA management board. He raised doubts about the FEO’s impartiality, pointing to media reports that indicated SODELPA and the elections office had acknowledged not receiving Ro Teimumu’s resignation letter when asked at the time of her TSLS board appointment. According to him, this constituted a breach that warranted immediate action and a referral to FICAC.

“Ro Teimumu should be held accountable for her actions,” Bainimarama insisted. “She should be investigated by FICAC, and if found guilty, she should face the full consequences of the law. This debacle once again raises questions about the impartiality of the FEO in what is becoming a recurring theme.”

Mataiciwa reiterated that the FEO relies on a complaints mechanism and encouraged anyone with concerns, including Bainimarama, to submit their complaints to the Elections Office if they believed a breach had occurred.

“We have a complaints mechanism in place,” Mataiciwa said. “If you have a complaint, you write to us. We analyse the complaint and if we see that there is a probable breach, we do not have that investigative power so we leave it to FICAC. So we leave it to FICAC to say we have a breach, we will escalate it up, or we dismiss it and that’s it.”

Regarding the specific complaint received, Mataiciwa said they had thoroughly analysed it and had informed the concerned citizen who filed it of their decision.

“We reached out to the complainant, a concerned citizen, and they were appreciative and satisfied with how we handled the complaint.”

Mataiciwa also clarified that the FEO takes a proactive approach in certain areas and relies on complaints in others. In the context of the Political Parties Act, when a complaint is submitted, they assess it to decide whether to escalate it further or dismiss it.

“If you have a concern, our doors are always open. Come to us and we will escalate it from there.”

Mataiciwa also said that if Bainimarama was still not satisfied with the decision and felt that there was a breach, he could raise it with FICAC.

“Raising it on social media won’t solve anything. If you have an issue, raise it with FICAC. For the FEO we don’t have that investigative role with us.”

When contacted, Ro Teimumu said that the matter had been resolved and declined to provide further comments. The complaint against her was filed on October 20, approximately one week after her appointment to the TSLS Board. The complaint was based on her appointment to a public office while still being a member of SODELPA. Upon inquiring with Ro Teimumu in a letter dated October 23, she responded three days later with copies of her resignation letters from the AFL and TSLS boards. The resignation letters were dated October 23. In a statement issued on October 26, the FEO dismissed the complaint, citing Ro Teimumu’s resignation from the boards as a resolution to the matter.

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