Fiji electoral laws clear on campaign do’s and dont’s: SoE

Any donation, provision of services or promise of property or benefit of any kind by a political party or provisional candidate during the campaign period, regardless of intentions, is primarily for the purpose of getting votes, says Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem.

Having read out section 140 of the Electoral Act, Mr Saneem said the electoral laws are clear about the confines in which political parties or provisional candidates were allowed to operate during the campaign period which started on 26 April this year.

“I am saying that all representatives of political parties and political parties must uphold the law,” he said during a press conference in Suva yesterday.

Deviating from that, he said amounted to flaunting the laws thereby warranted necessary actions as per the provisions of the electoral law.

“I have seen from a recent Facebook post, that General Secretary of a particular party has been seen giving out a volleyball and net to a group of people. In the interest of free and fair election, all these needs to stop. There are various attempts to mask this also. And attempts to the extent that people are using third party organizations to do this, or people are using various excuses to say it’s all justified in the course of the game.

“You cannot create the excuse that we are doing this for this, it is a campaign period and if any candidate is doing any of these, it’s primarily for the purpose of getting votes otherwise, there were other three years before this year started, nobody was seen giving out volleyball. This is an election year; the people of Fiji are not fools.

“Going out, in saying that I decided to give you a volleyball to a place that you’ve never visited in your life. Those are things that you have to evaluate, and the FEO will only deal with it once we have seen something happen.”

When such matters are brought to the FEO’s attention, the SOE reviews it before deciding the next course of action which is to either dismiss it or refer it to FICAC for investigation if they believe there is a probable breach.

Mr Saneem also pointed out that cases could be referred to FICAC without acquiring a response from the subject of the complaint or the party that is being complained about.

“We are required to refer to FICAC, a probable breach of the law. So, when we ask questions to representatives, we ask them to determine if there is a probable breach of the law if there is a prima facie breach of the law, like in the case of Sagal Narayan, with all those … that we had, we refer directly to FICAC.

“But where it is not prima facie, we have to ask questions. The law says that the supervisor shall report so, as soon as I see a prima facie breach I report, I have been doing that since 2014. Right. If there is something that is not as obvious as it should be, could be, then we ask questions.”

Like in the case of the Rock the Vote Fiji, Mr Saneem said.

“We have asked all these questions simply because we have seen other businesses donating to this. I mean a bus hire for a whole week is $250. How is it possible to hire a bus for $250 we are right now trying to hire buses for one day on elections and the prices coming to us are 400 to $600 a day. But for one week, for bust fire, its $250. Is that a concessional rate?

“The fact that Rock the Vote Fiji closed its Facebook page and deleted so many posts is incriminating evidence itself that it was not operating as a civic duty. There is nothing civic in that. From the way it looks at this point in time, Rock the Vote Fiji has a lot of questions to answer. And there are nobody who has stepped up as executives for Rock the Vote Fiji and we will wait for response.

“Rock the Vote Fiji has been referred to FICAC as I have said on the basis of a probable breach of section (3)(2) of the Political Parties Act. There are still other sections of the law like section 141 Section 140 section 114 that that yet to be sorted. There are so many people involved.”

With the Rock the Vote movement referred to FICAC, the FEO has turned its attention to people named in some of the page’s FB posts, some of which Mr Saneem said appeared to have been deleted, but not before the election’s office took screenshots of those posts.

People named in the posts included some of The People’s Alliance Party’s provisional candidates. The FEO,  Mr Saneem says has written to those individuals to enquire about their involvement with the Rock The Vote initiative.

The campaign period ends two days before election day.

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