“Rejection of NGO auditing of polling stations” Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business) (30 August 2014)
“NGO auditing of polling stations” Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business) (sent 30 August 2014)
It is pointless expressing disgust at the continued abuse of powers by the Attorney General and Minister of Elections, who also happens to be the Secretary General of Fiji First Party.
The latest is his arrogant decision that while international observers and party scrutineers will be allowed to monitor the activities at the polling stations, he will not allow 300 independent local observers from the Civil Society-Domestic Elections Observation Group (CSO-DEOG).
The statement by the CSO-DEOG quite correctly argued that “local community observers are often able to understand the nuances that international observers cannot, and their absence will leave a hole in the process.”
But those of us who are concerned about a free and fair voting and vote counting process, can also add that international observers will be here and gone (after a nice holiday in Fiji), while party scrutinizers can always be accused of bias should they observe any irregularities.
Our local NGOs/CSOs on the other hand, can be relied upon firstly, to be truly independent and without any political bias, and secondly, to have institutional memory and ongoing sustainability in good governance practices in elections.
I would request the Electoral Services Commission to strongly advise Mr Khaiyum that he behave as the independent Minister of Elections that he claims to be, and to allow the 300 observers that the CSO-DEOG have requested.
If the Commission fails to allow local NGO/CSO observers as requested, then they should desist from proclaiming to the world, as Commission member Mr Larry Thomas recently did, that the elections will be “free and fair”.
That claim had already taken a battering with the last minute unreasonable disqualification of some candidates by an ad hoc decree issued by Mr Khaiyum, totally contemptuous of fair play.
Just as justice has to be “seen to be done”, elections also must be “seen as free and fair”, especially by politically neutral NGOs and NSOs.
Professor Wadan Narsey