Suspension of Fiji party prompts complaints of excessive force
There's a dispute in Fiji over whether the suspension of a political party, the National Federation Party, was an excessive move by the Supervisor of Elections.
There's a dispute in Fiji over whether the suspension of a political party was an excessive move by the Supervisor of Elections.
This week Mohammed Saneem pre-empted a National Federation Party press conference by suspending the party, effectively threatening the MPs with five years in jail if they spoke to the media as a party.
The misdemeanour was an alleged improper submission of its annual accounts.
Alex Perrottet has more.
There's a legal principle that you don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut - there's no place for disproportionate force for a minor problem. That's the way the members of the suspended National Federation Party see this action. Their audited accounts were signed off by an accountant who is a member of the Fiji Institute of Accountants, and a CPA member in Australia. But the President of the Fiji Institute of Accountants, Nouzab Fareed, says you can't sign off as an auditor without a certificate of public practice or CPP. He says the accountant, from APNR Partners, deceived the public.
NOUZAB FAREED: Actually he is a member of the Institute, he is a chartered accountant so definitely then we can go back and investigate, because he has deceived the public, because as being a chartered accountant you can't practice as a CPP which means I think he'll need some action, so probably we'll be investigating it further.
Nouzab Fareed says this is potentially a police matter. The decree says the accountant may be liable to a ten year jail term and or a fine of up to $23,000 US dollars. But an MP, Tupou Draunidalo, who is a lawyer, says the decree has no such provision.
TUPOU DAUNIDALO: Because the decree only says 'an auditor certified by FIA', any certificate handed out by FIA to an accountant complies with that provision. And now they're saying, no we want an auditor that has a CPP which is a particular kind of certificate. Well why didn't they say it in the decree? Then political parties know what to go and get.
Tupou Draunidalo says those in the suspended party are now operating as individual members. They have taken down the party's website and its Facebook page; and they have also cleared up the party headquarters from any material that could cause them major repercussions under the decree, such as five years in jail for holding itself out to be a political party when not registered. But there's nothing in the decree that says a suspended party has the status of an unregistered party. That's why Ms Draunidalo says the whole process has been unfair. She says it's not an offence, but an unproven allegation of a technical administrative error and the party should be able to operate while an investigation is underway. At the same time, the Speaker of Parliament, Jiko Luveni, says she is seeking advice about whether the three MPs can even sit in Parliament when it resumes. Her office provided a comment, saying a decision is yet to be made. Yet under the same decree, even for proven offences, MPs from suspended parties do remain in parliament until the end of the term. The Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, did not respond to requests for comment, as he was at a warehouse in Lami Bay, destroying the ballot papers of the 2014 general election.
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