Fiji Electoral Commission a no show to panel discussion
Fiji's Electoral Commission was missing from a panel discussion on free and fair elections, despite being invited to attend in Suva on Tuesday.
Fiji's Electoral Commission was missing from a panel discussion on free and fair elections in Suva on Tuesday despite being invited to attend.
The Citizens Constitutional Forum, which hosted the talks with the University of the South Pacific, says it was a chance to provide technical information and spark discussion before the September polls.
The debate centred on a report produced by the NGO which marked Fiji fairly positively for its progress towards free and fair elections so far.
The Forum's CEO Akuila Yabaki says foreign-funded NGOs like CCF have to tread carefully in their activities because of the Electoral Decree and after the discussion he spoke to Sally Round.
AKUILA YABAKI: Despite the fact there were only three out of four panelists I think they were quite substantial. I think that it adds quality to it that we had an international, a UN person, and Tara Chetty of coursed raised the issues of women. Not only because it's missing from the constitution but the fact that, as she rightly says, the vibrancy of civil society in Fiji, where women play a very active, engaging role.
SALLY ROUND: And how difficult has it been to organise this given some of the restrictions that you're working under, under the electoral decree?
AY: We have a track record of engaging with whoever is with government. We're experienced, we know it's not going to be easy but I think don't give up.
SR: Did you have to choose your wording carefully? You called it a 'conversation' rather than a debate.
AY: That's a good point, that's a good point. Yeah, um, yeah we chose the word 'conversation'. We knew that Section 115, which points to campaign, and we had been down that road before, we were told that we were campaigning. We've had engagement with the Attorney General and meetings and letters and things. And we know that we have convinced them that we are on the educational role. We are not doing any campaign.
SR: You gave in your report the election process, up until now, a fairly positive scorecard.
AY: Because of the participation of people. I think they're saying that half a million people have registered. And the high decree of the participation of women and youth, which we haven't touched much on tonight, there's great energy there.
SR: You had four panelists planned to be here. One of those was a member of the electoral commission, but they turned you down. What was the reason they couldn't come?
AY: From the information that we've got for the last week or so they were really wrestling with it. They thought they could send someone. CCF knows the people, about seven of them, and I think they're all credible people and I think I have confidence in it, but I think there's some issues about their independence - not in terms of their personality or mentality - but the framework. The electoral decree may have some issues there where they may not be able to answer questions withouth having to refer to the supervisor for elections and so forth.
SR: So your reaction to them not being here?
AY: Well, it's unfortunate. It does raise the question about their ability to express their independence, which is what we need in this election. I hope they'll come good, we've got three more conversations coming.
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