Fiji political parties face another deregistration threat
Political parties in Fiji are facing another threat of deregistration if they are unable to come with US$14,000 for newspaper advertising they were forced into.
Political parties in Fiji may be deregistered if they fail to come with US$14,000 by Monday for newspaper advertising.
The Fiji Sun was given the exclusive right to publish the political parties' asset declarations made to the regime last month.
Now the registrar of political parties is demanding they pay the newspaper for the declarations by Monday or face deregistration.
Jamie Tahana reports.
The President of the National Federation Party, Raman Singh, says the party was sent a bill from the Fiji Sun newspaper, through the registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem, for last month's publication of their asset declarations. Mr Singh says the party has no objection to having to pay for publishing the declarations, as required by decree, but it does object to the manner in which the registrar chose the Fiji Sun.
RAMAN SINGH: The registrar chose this particular publication without calling for tenders or there being any competition within any other newspapers so we felt it was in breach of the fair trading decree. So the complaint has been made to him and to the chairman of the Commerce Commission who looks at situations like this.
The general secretary of the Sodelpa party, Pio Tabaiwalu, agrees. He says the regime should have put the publication rights out to tender, as the Fiji Times may have been able to print the declarations at a better price. Mr Tabaiwalu says Sodelpa has also laid a complaint with the Commerce Commission.
PIO TABAIWALU: It is a breach of our right to choose. The government has predominantly used the Fiji Sun for their advertisements, but I thought since we were the ones paying for the advertisement this time around we would have the right of choice.
Mr Tabaiwalu says he would have hoped the registrar would have contacted him so they could have worked together to make it economical as parties have little money.
PIO TABAIWALU: You know, we just started. Especially Sodelpa, it's a new party and we've just registered our members and we have hardly got anything in the bank account. We just registered in May, so how do we get 26,000? And that has been the difficulty, you know? We're just starting setting up branches at the moment and we certainly do not have 26,000 in the bank.
Raman Singh says the NFP is fundraising among its members to try and get the money it needs to stay registered.
RAMAN SINGH: We have a very limited means, but we have to go through individuals to fundraise. It needs to be paid. The money has to be donated through our members.
The registrar of political parties, Mohammed Saneem, was unable to be contacted for comment. But Poi Tabaiwalu says when he spoke to the registrar, he seemed unwilling to accede to the parties' requests for extra time to pay the money. This comes as little surprise to the spokesperson for the Fiji Union for Democracy, Mick Beddoes.
MICK BEDDOES: I think it's quite outrageous. But again, it's just another clear example of the unrelenting attempt by the regime to make life miserable for the political parties that have against all odds managed to comply with the draconian measures that the regime has put forward in their decree.
Mick Beddoes says this is a perfect example of the kind of action the regime is taking to try and destroy political parties while saying they are working towards democracy.
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