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“FNU and FEO dumbing Fiji down further” (16/12/2017)


“FNU and FEO dumbing Fiji down further” (16 Dec. 2017)

OR  is it just Healey and Saneem dumbing Fiji down?

For many years now there have been news item which ought to jolt intelligent readers to ask publicly: Why are our taxpayer funds being wasted? Are we dumbing down as a nation?

Take this Fiji Times news story (11 and 13 Dec. 2017) with headline:  “FNU, FEO ink MOU”, with a photo of a smiling FNU Vice Chancellor Nigel Healey and Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem.

HealeyVC Healey is reported to have said that transparency and legitimacy in the election of the alumni board’s representative bodies played a role of critical importance within FNUAA elections and that:

“The role that FEO plays is very critical and important. We have within the university two very important and young representative bodies — FNUAA and Fiji National University Student Association (FNUSA) — and we were really pleased that the elections for these bodies took place in a very fair and transparent way brokered by the Elections Office,” he said.

The Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem is reported to have acknowledged the significance of the FNUAA election as the FEO would be using newly implemented electronic voting machines for the first time. He is reported as saying:

“It is an interesting area for us as these are the future generations of the country and giving them an exposure to good election practices is what we are all about” [to] “progress technology in elections and to progress capacity building in elections in the whole region.”


On the surface of it, this is a great example of cooperation between two noble institutions in Fiji, one of higher learning and one a Government taxpayer funded institution supposed to encourage good elections, improving transparency in Fiji.

But look at the story more closely, look behind the smooth guys in coats and ties, to understand how Fiji is “dumbing down” (or “deskilling”).

But why is it that the Fiji public say nothing about this ridiculous dumbing down, this ridiculous charade wasting taxpayer funds?

Voting was once so simple

Once upon a time, all kinds of associations in Fiji- unions, teachers, civil servants, PTAs, sports, and even university students used to have their meetings and make decisions such as electing their representatives or deciding on some policy change.

They used simple procedures such as speaking up (“ayes” and “nos”), or holding up their hands to be counted, or putting ticks or crosses on pieces of paper to be collected, trustworthy scrutineers counting  then announcing who had the highest number of votes.

These simple elections and voting have been conducted for decades by ordinary Fiji citizens, without university degrees or even secondary education or even primary education, without computers or complicated million dollar software, without outside “technical” help from India or Australia or NZ.

So why is it that what ought to have been a simple process for the Fiji National University Alumni Association has now to be done by the Fiji Elections Office using multimillion dollar equipment and software, and legitimated by the university vice chancellor (Healey) and praised effusively by the cherubic Supervisor of Elections (Saneem)?

Vice Chancellor Healey

This expatriate Vice Chancellor, who replaced a local Vice Chancellor, has been recently discussed on Fijileaks for other matters.

You would think that the vice chancellor of the largest university in Fiji and his staff and his students would all know how simple it is to conduct a fair election to appoint office bearers.

Could Fiji National University not find an honest scrutineer from the staff or students, who will not take sides in the election; who could count (1, 2, 3, 4 etc.); who could rank the candidates; and who could announce the winner?

Why was the FNU Vice Chancellor Healey wasting his personal costly time and that of his support staff to engage in this ridiculous superfluous exercise with the Fiji Elections Office being asked to conduct the elections and be scrutineer?

Why would this expatriate vice chancellor go out of his way to legitimate a process which indicates to all Fiji that the hallowed supposedly intelligent and qualified graduates of his own university are  incapable of doing even these simple things, like conducting an election and counting the votes?

Have a guess, Fiji public.  Fijileaks might give you some answers.

SOE Saneem

SOE Saneem has also been in the news in the last few years, and not for his transparency and accountability, words he glibly throws around.

While a Supervisor of Elections is supposed to be a civil servant independent of all political parties, Saneem was actually appointed by the Secretary General of one of the parties contesting the 2014 Elections (the Attorney General himself, Aiyaz Khaiyum).

Saneem insisted on being the Secretary to the Fiji Electoral Commission under whose supervision he was supposed to be operating.

But on the contrary, in the 2014 Elections, he refused to accept the direction of the Fiji Electoral Commission on who could stand as a candidate and who could not.

Even when the Fiji courts ruled that he should obey the directives of the Commission, he refused to do so and continued in office, while the FFP candidate the FEC objected to, and once upon a time facing a criminal charge of “causing death by dangerous driving” is still a Minister in the Bainimarama Government.

Saneem has not turned his attention to the elections of office bearers and board members of many organizations which are genuinely critical to Fiji people’s welfare and desperately in need of democracy, transparency and accountability: such as the Fiji National Provident Fund and the many public enterprises.

So why is he wasting large amounts of taxpayers money in the elections of officer bearers of associations of students and graduate alumni at a university which could very well have done all this independently, as they have done for decades?

Why is Fiji dumbing down?

Of course it is of concern that a university vice chancellor should go along with this utterly wasteful exercise which undermines his own credibility.  But this expatriate vice chancellor probably has to struggle to keep his job, as Fijileaks suggests.

Of course it is of concern that Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections ignores the need for elections to a whole range of really important bodies in Fiji while wasting taxpayer funds on trivial exercises such as at FNU. But Saneem has his own agenda set by those who appointed him.

Saneem will no doubt continue this agenda in the run up to the 2018 Elections and appearing in a suit and tie and making great empty speeches about transparency, accountability and modern technology serves that agenda very well.

It is of much greater concern that the university students and graduates themselves,  raise no protest at the charade they are required to go through.

It is an ongoing tragedy that our educated young in Fiji, not just at FNU but also at USP and UniFiji, are not in the vanguard of challenging society when things are going wrong, as passionate young people do everywhere in the world.

The wider social tragedy is that the Fiji public say nothing about this prime example of the sheer waste of their valuable taxpayer funds through the Fiji Elections Office, with the willing collaboration of the incredibly highly paid expatriate vice chancellor of Fiji’s largest university.

Of course, it suits the rulers of any country if those being ruled are too dumb or cowardly to challenge any kind of stupidity that is thrust on them by those in power.

Dumbing down of the population and even the “intelligentsiya” is an essential part of the cancerous process by which truly independent states become banana republics.


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