Solomons watchdog warns voters over 'corrupt practice'
Transparency Solomon Islands urges citizens to refrain from selling their voter identification cards for personal gain.
The anti-corruption group, Transparency Solomon Islands, is urging the public to refrain from selling their vote for money in the leadup to the national election.
The Electoral Commission has already voiced concern that some candidates or current MPs may be paying citizens for their voter identification cards.
The Executive Officer of Transparency Solomon Islands, Daniel Fenua, told Amelia Langford such measures are corrupt and must stop.
DANIEL FENUA:People at the moment, they don't really understand what will happen if they sell their IDs. You know, just because others are doing it and people start selling their IDs - it doesn't really guarantee that those people who are the selling IDs would actually vote for an intended candidate or a current MP. We think that the practice itself is not good, it is a corrupt practice because people are starting to sell their ID cards now and we are calling on members of the public to stop that kind of practice and we are calling MPs or candidates not to do that kind of practice and also at the same time, the Electoral Commission, the authority that looks after the process, should strongly send a message to the public not to engage in such practices and if so the Solomon Islands Electoral Act clearly spells out that kind of offence under such practices.
AMELIA LANGFORD: Do you believe it is quite common?
DF: It is very common. During elections in Solomon Islands people are known to sell their votes to MPs. I have met a number of MPs...some of the voters actually went to them trying to sell their votes leading up to the election. So this kind of practice is common. You know, the new [biometric] system should be a model for all Pacific Islands in the region but now ...people have started to doubt the new registration system.
AL: Yes, do you have confidence in the new biometric system?
DF: At the start, we thought the system was actually a good system - that it would avoid the kind of problems that happened over the past years. But now what's currently happening at the moment, everyday you look at the papers and there are fresh revelations of people selling their IDs to intended candidates and I don't think people will no longer have their confidence and trust in this new registration system. For us, I think the confidence would be [there] if only officers were directly involved in the process and making sure that noone during the election, during the registration, would have the chance to ID or something like that.
AL: Yes and tell me how it would work if you were to sell your ID card, what happens?
DF: So, what will happen, all the people who are working for the intended candidates, they buy these IDs and then they will keep those IDs and what I have heard is just the week before the election they will start distributing back all these IDs with probably a kind of payment, let's say 1000 SBD [Solomon Islands Dollar], and say 'if you take your ID, I will give you this money' and then you will go and vote for a particular candidate. And prior to the election, if you give that kind of huge amount of money, given that the level of understanding, level of knowledge, is so limited in the rural areas, the chances of people voting for that particular MP is very high because they will definitely be convinced by the amount of money given to them.
AL: And do you think the biometric system, though, can stop this kind of behaviour?
DF: From my point of view, the biometric system will only stop people from revoting, not voting twice, but it won't stop the kind of practices that lead up to the election. The voting system is still the same - it is just the registration process and people should know there are two different systems. The registration system is new but the voting system is still the same but the new biometric system just makes sure that you are the right person and you only vote once.
AL: Right, so it can make sure people don't vote twice but it can't make people don't vote for someone because they are being paid?
DF: Yes, that is correct. I mean the practice of candidates trying to buy voters and voters selling their votes cannot be stopped by this new system, I don't think so.
AL: How are you feeling about the elections coming up? Are you hopeful that they will be fairly transparent?
DF: Well, it depends on the kind of awareness that the Electoral Commission would have but given the current happenings at the moment the challenges of people selling their votes and impending candidates bribing all the voters is very high and it is happening at the moment. We at Transparency are committed to making sure this process [leads to] transparent and fair elections. I would like to tell voters and impending candidates that if you buy votes the law will catch up with you. Voters should never sell their votes to an impending candidate.
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