The Fijian Elections Office says it has covered more than 225 locations including some of the remotest villages and settlements in the country and served over 16,500 voters during the ongoing nationwide voter registration and awareness drive.
However, the People’s Alliance Party believes the exercise could be improved based on concerns received from their supporters at the venues.
In an update yesterday, the FEO said in five days they had served over 16,500 voters in over 225 locations around the country including Rewasau village in the heart of Viti Levu, Marou village in Nadarivatu after trekking for more than an hour, and in the North, traveled by boat to Cikobia Island to carry out voter services in the four villages on the island.
Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem said they anticipated delays and adjournments in the early days given that the drive is drawn up in a way that voter registration and awareness is carried out in the rural areas first.
“Due to the difficulties in accessing these places as well as other amenities such as the availability of electricity for charging the kits and lighting during the registration process,” Saneem said.
“Access to maritime regions is of course dependent on the tide which means certain places that were previously scheduled will have to be adjourned to the next high tide. This, the people in those regions easily understand – as is the case in Kadavu. The FEO is in close contact with the DO’s, the PA’s, the Roko’s and the individual TNK’s and Advisory Councilors in our efforts to continuously keep the people updated. This information channel has worked successfully for us and the TNK’s and Advisory Councilors have worked closely with FEO to gather people at designated locations for us to provide voter services.
“Given the size of the operations in this exercise, the FEO has ensured that all attempts are made with the TNK’s and advisory councilors on the ground regarding the updated schedules.”
However, PAP leader Sitiveni Rabuka said reports from their supporters on the ground indicate otherwise, that more needs to be done to ensure “citizens of Fiji must be given the right to register to vote and have their say.”
He made a number of suggestions including allocating enough time per venue to ensure all eligible voters that turn up are served to avoid a repeat of the events that transpired in Namatakula and Narata villages in the West during the week.
In Namatakula, villagers were initially allocated a 2-hour slot, but because, according to FEO officials, “voters from nearby villages and settlements” also turned up, the election office’s “divisional manager western …extended the stay of the team to cater for all the voters.”
“We also received reports from Narata village, Nadroga where only 2 hours were allocated however after discussions, they returned the next morning to complete registrations. Whilst this is good to see, clearly, no detailed thought was given to the number of voters in each locality,” Rabuka said. “Having said this, we are getting reports of FEO Officials staying back in other locations which is positive. We thank the FEO for their efforts in this regard.’’
He also expressed concerns about the logistics planning by the FEO, pointing out the registration schedule in Kadavu.
“In Kadavu, it is evident that the planning by the Fiji Elections Office has not taken into account the geographical considerations. For example, Kadavu Provincial School (located in Kavala) and Vunisei were scheduled on the same day. However, there are closer localities to Kadavu Provincial School that could have been visited before Vunisei. Additionally, Vunisei village is only accessible by the high tide from Kadavu Provincial School. It would have been a more efficient approach to access Vunisei village from Vunisea by road.
He also made a number of recommendations to the SOE including that the FEO revises its plan daily to “capture revised timings in all divisions” as well as consider actual polling venues for the GE 2022 to carry out voter registration and awareness drive.
“This would make more sense and the FEO can work out easily how many voters are at each locality.”
Rabuka also said that his party stands ready to work with FEO to ensure all eligible voters are registered and have their say at the polls.
The nationwide voter registration and awareness drive end on Saturday 2 April.