9 May 2006

Fiji polling officials fail to deliver voting forms for soldiers in Iraq

9:59 am on 9 May 2006

Fiji's military has rejected allegations by the supervisor of elections, Semesa Karavaki, that two polling officials who went to Iraq to collect the votes of soldiers serving there were turned away.

The military says the election officials ignored the security arrangements made for them with the United Nations at the request of Fiji's foreign ministry.

Instead the officials, Josese Rakuita and Esala Nayasi, decided to hire their own security guards from a private company operating in Iraq which has an office in Fiji.

The commander of Fiji troops in Baghdad, Lt Col Mason Smith, says he was disappointed the two officials opted out of the security arrangements made for them and did not meet with the military when it tried to locate them.

He says their UN security passes were then retrieved and the officials left Iraq.

Lt Col Smith says their actions made it impossible for military and security personnel working in Iraq to vote.

A spokesman in Fiji, Lt Col Orisi Rabukawaqa, says some soldiers will return on Friday and may still be able to vote but others will miss out.