Call for local body elections in Fiji after Winston
A human rights activist in Fiji says local body elections are all the more important following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston.
A human rights activist in Fiji says local body elections are all the more important for Fiji following the devastation caused by Cyclone Winston.
Fiji had elections to its national parliament in 2014 following eight years of rule by decree but local municipalities are still overseen by appointed officials.
Kris Prasad told Sally Round people need to be able to take their concerns to locally elected representatives.
KRIS PRASAD: It would be good to have local government elections because for areas like Rakiraki, Ba, Lautoka, if they had their own elected representatives representing their voices in local government then these leaders can be held accountable to the everyday things happening in their communities such as flooding, drainage, sanitation etc because what we've seen over the past ten years is that there's been no elected local government. There's appointed officials but they are not really accountable to the towns or cities. Everything is administered from Suva, the Ministry of Local Government.
SALLY ROUND: But there are elected members of parliament now. What about them as the elected representatives of people in those other areas?
KP: Yeah, so we have a different form of representation in parliament. People don't vote for people, it's one big large constituency. It's very hard for some areas, especially those living in rural areas and maritime regions, the outer islands, to have connection to a local MP because most of the MPs are from the larger parties and are probably based in the urban areas. They may be from around the country but how are they able to connect to local constituencies because it's one big constituency. Are they connected to the local people? How do we know that a person from like Labasa or Savosavo for example, how do they connect to an MP in Suva here? Are they able to have meetings with them, contact by email or connect by social media and so on? So that is a gap that I've noticed as a human rights activist.
SR: But we do see the prime minister visiting these places, so I guess a connection you could say is being made that way?
KP: We did not just elect the prime minister, we elected for people standing for the elections, and there are 49 other representatives in parliament. And they're supposed to be all representing Fiji. It's good to have a national leader going out to the communities, being visible. But we also have other representations and you know not everyone may be aligned to what the prime minister believes or the direction that he's taking Fiji forward. Because only 60 percent of Fiji voted for that party in the 2014 elections.
SR: What then do you think is the best way forward for Fiji in terms of recovery?
KP: In terms of recovery, yeah, definitely having those local voices. If you're talking about democracy, the new genuine true democracy in Fiji, we have to break it down to what that means for people on the ground and whether they actually genuinely have a voice in what happens in their communities, in their towns and cities, and not just in Fiji.
The Minister for Local Government Parveen Kumar told parliament this week municipal elections will be conducted after a review of the Local Government Act.
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