Archives June 2020

Lifting of Suspension for SODEPLA

Statement by the Registrar of Political Parties

Mr Mohammed Saneem

Lifting of Suspension for SODELPA

FEO Media Centre – 29/06/20 –4.00pm

Lifting of Suspension for the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA)

1. On 26 May 2020 I suspended the Social Democratic Liberal Party. You will note that I had required the officials of the suspended Party to carry out the following:

a. Provide the correct version of the Constitution of the Party to the Registrar
b. Comply with the High Court Ruling and re-submit the Audited Accounts for 2019; and
c. Make appropriate application under section 11 of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013 for the appointment of a Registered Officer.

The Constitution

2. The Officials provided the Registrar with an agreed version of the Constitution on 16 June 2020. The Registrar was informed that the Constitution had been vetted by the Taskforce as well as by Hon. Adi Litia, the former General Secretary.

3. This Constitution formed the basis of the further activities of the suspended party as it attempted to remedy the breaches.

The 2019 Audited Accounts

4. The Registrar held a meeting with the Auditor of the Party as well as the officials of the Party on 24 June 2020. At this meeting the Auditor and the Officials confirmed to the Registrar that the Audit Reports would be prepared and handed to the Registrar following the Management Board Meeting on 27 June 2020.

5. The Audited Accounts of the Party was received by the Registrar on 29 June 2020 and this completes the second requirement for the suspension to be lifted.

Registered Officer

6. The Registrar acknowledges the Application by the Office Holders of the Party to appoint Ms. Emele Duituturaga as the Registered Officer of the Party.

7. It must be noted that similar application was made previously as follows:

a. On 04 May 2020, Application was made by the Party to appoint Adi Litia Qionibaravi as Registered Officer. This was not approved as the Party did not have Office Holders to form a ‘majority’ as required under the law.
b. On 26 May 2020, Application was made by the Party to appoint Ms. Emele Duituturaga as Registered Officer. This was not approved due to lack of compliance with the Constitution.
c. On 26 May 2020, Application was made to appoint Ms. Adi Litia Qionibaravi as Registered Officer. This was also not approved due to lack of compliance with the Constitution.
d. On 18 June 2020, Application was made by the Party to appoint Ms. Emele Duituturaga as the Registered Officer. This was not approved as it was not done according to the requirements of the Constitution of the Party.

8. On 18 June 2020, the Registrar, directed the Party to section 18.3.1 of its Constitution and required that the Party initiate the process as required under that section. The Registrar also clarified that it will not accept any application unless it follows the requirements of the Constitution citing various attempts to make appointments by various factions within the Party.

9. Section 18.3.1(a) of the Constitution states that “the General Secretary of the Party is also the Authorised and Registered Officer of the Party.

10. The process for appointment of General Secretary is governed by section 18.3.1 of the SODELPA Constitution. Section 18.3.1 states:

“The General Secretary shall be recruited under nationally recognized best practices on terms decided by the Management Board. He/She shall sign a Work Contract with the Management Board and shall deliver under a Performance Agreement to be signed with the Management Board.

[Emphasis added]

11. It must be noted from the Constitution of SODELPA that the Management Board does not have the powers to carry out direct appointment of the General Secretary nor does the Constitution provide for Acting appointments for General Secretary. The Constitution is clear on the process and the requirements that need to be met to appoint the General Secretary.

12. It is also evident that the Party does not already have Standard Operating Procedures or manuals to dictate the process under section 18.3.1. Various factions and candidates for the position seemed to have their own rules regarding this process. It is highly recommended that the Party prepares and published the rules under section 18.3 in the interests of transparency and good governance.

13. Today, the officials of the Party have presented another Application under section 11 of the Act to substitute the name of Ms. Emele Duituturaga as the Registered Officer of the Party.

14. The Officials also presented the Registrar’s Office with the signed Work Contract as well as Performance Agreement as required under the Constitution.

15. The Application is duly signed by the President – Vijay Singh, Vice Presidents – Ratu Apenisa Seru Cakobau and Mr. Jone Tevita Lesuma, and, Ms. Emele Duituturaga. The Party Leader did not sign the Application.

16. Prior to the receipt of the Application this morning, the Registrar received objections to the appointment from Mr. Pio Tabaiwalu, and Mr. Usaia Waqaitarewa, both of whom were also applicants for the position.

17. The Registrar obtained responses from the Officials on the correspondence received and thereafter made necessary enquiries to ascertain the facts. Following these enquiries, the Registrar formed the view that the General Secretary position in the Party is an employee position. The Party, as the employer will have to deal with the appeals and objections from unsuccessful candidates for the position.

18. The Registrar is independent and in this matter, Mr. Tabaiwalu and Mr.
Waqaitarewa may directly seek to invoke the grievance clause of the  Constitution or consider appropriate legal action.

19. It is noted that the Party Leader did not sign the Application, however, three (3) out of four (4) Office Holders did sign and this satisfies the requirements of section 11(2)(b) of the Act.

20. I approve the Application for Substitution of Ms. Emele Duituturaga’s name as Registered Officer of SODELPA.

Compliance with the Act

21. Since the Officials of the Party have complied with the requirements of the Registrar as listed above, the Party’s suspension is lifted with immediate effect.

22. The Secretary General of Parliament has also been notified accordingly.

Special General Meeting

23. The Party is required by the Constitution to convene an Annual General Meeting on or before 30 June of every year. Since that has not happened for 2020, the Party will be calling a Special General Meeting on 25 July 2020 at the Novotel Convention Centre in Lami.

SODELPA Suspension

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

SODELPA Suspension

FEO Media Centre – 7 June 2020 – 4.30pm

Bula Vinaka Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to clarify some confusion in the media surrounding the events that led to the suspension of the Social Democratic Liberal Party. I’m here to correct the facts, and provide the public with the exact timeline that ultimately led to the decision to suspend the party. In the interests of transparency, I’d urge the media and anyone seeking to put forward an educated opinion on the matter to include this timeline in their reporting.

    • On 23 April 2020, the High Court delivered a decision in Civil Action No. HBC 269 of 2019.
    • The Registrar wrote to the Party Leader on 27 April 2020 to urge the Party to comply with the directives of the Court and at the same time the Register of Political Parties was amended in compliance with the Order of the Court.
    • On 27 April 2020, the Party was given 30 days to comply and at the same time furnish all the necessary documents as required by the law.
    • On 23 May 2020, there were 2 separate meetings of the SODELPA (in suspension) both claiming to be the legitimate Board Meetings. Both meeting organizers disputed the other meeting claiming lack of compliance with the Party Constitution.
    • On 25 May 2020, the first ‘Application to Substitute the Name of Registered Officer under section 11’ was filed with a List of Office Holders of the Suspended Party, which was disputed by Hon. Adi Litia Qionibaravi at 4:30pm the same day.
    • Later, on 25 May 2020, Hon. Adi Litia Qionibaravi submitted another ‘Application to Substitute the Name of Registered Officer under section 11’ was filed with a list of Office Holders of the Suspended Party.
    • On 26 May 2020, having found that there are various irregularities in the documents submitted such as lack of exact office holders within the Management Board of the Party, there being different versions of the Constitution of the Party, failure by the Officials to comply with the rules of the Party as explained in the decision I gave that day, the Party had to be suspended to ensure that it remedied the deficiencies.
    • The Suspended Party is currently in the process of remedying the defects.

Clearly, SODELPA (in suspension) was provided ample time, from the 27th of April, to comply with the decision of the court and furnish the necessary documents. However, they failed to do so. In the weeks that followed, it became clear the party was not in any position to take appropriate remedial action, as was well-documented by the media, leaving my office with no choice but to suspend the party. SODLEPA (in suspension) now has until the 27th of July to remedy their failures.

This timeline of events had been noted in my Media Statement on 26 May and there has been no dispute to the contrary. Given the considerable length of time provided to the Party to take corrective action, and the seriousness of their failures, it is simply not honest to paint this decision as abrupt or without precedent.

In fact, in arriving at my decision on 26 May 2020 I had clearly mentioned that:

Para 46:

“In National Federation Party v Supervisor of Elections, HBM 28 of 2016, the High Court in paragraph 18 held that the Registrar could simply notify the Party of the breach and require it to rectify it even though the law allowed the Registrar to suspend the Party. In compliance with the same, in this case, there was a 30-day timeframe given to SODELPA. This suspension action is taken following that period. In this case, the Party has not been able to resolve its issues and remedy the breach. The situation has worsened in fact.”

At this time it is important to ensure that the Party is allowed to rectify the breaches so that it may return to functioning under the law.

In a well-functioning democracy, strong institutions are empowered to respond appropriately and independently in enforcing their mandate. In this instance, the FEO acted in accordance with the law and past precedent, and took measures that matched the seriousness of the offence. We gave the suspended SODELPA every opportunity to “fix up their irregularities”, until “drastic measures” against them became absolutely necessary.

Ends.

Response to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s Social Media Post

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

Response to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s Social Media Post

FEO Media Centre- 1 June 2020 – 3.30pm

I would like to make a statement to respond to Mr Niko Nawaikula’s social media statement. This is because we have seen that Mr Nawaikula’s social media post has garnered significant attention from the public and we would like to respond to it.

First of all, I would like to point out that Mr Nawaikula has got the law wrong when he has suggested that the Supervisor of Elections is actually advising the Speaker. The Speaker of Parliament is an independent authority with a set of staff which has qualified legal professionals as well as constitutional mandated legal advice from various offices. As such it does not have to seek and it did not seek the advice of the Supervisor of Elections and this is an incorrect assumption by Mr Niko Nawaikula.

Mr Nawaikula has also incorrectly contended that even though the Social Democratic Liberal Party has been suspended, the Parliamentarians should have been afforded the opportunity to participate in Parliament. This is an incorrect assumption, both on fact and law.

I would like to clarify this by raising the following which are now significant features of the Fijian Electoral system:

1. Under the electoral system, nominations at the General Election are done by Political Parties using Party Lists. All candidates for the election by the Party are listed by order of preference in the Party List by the Party.
2. Once all the results are in, the SoE prepares the Final National Results Tally which contains the total number of votes achieved by each candidate listed in descending order within the Party.
3. The total votes received by the Party is used to determine if that Party has met the threshold of 5%.
4. If the Party has met the threshold, then the Electoral Commission determines the number of seats that the Party will occupy in Parliament. The Electoral Commission will then fill those seats from the candidates of the Party from the Final National Results Tally.

It is a Party based system. In the case of the suspended SODELPA, there are 21 seats and the 21 candidates who have received the highest number of votes from that Party are currently in Parliament, in suspension at the moment. Those Parliamentarians are in the Parliament representing their Party and cannot claim entitlement to the seat in Parliament personally. It is a Party Seat.

Therefore, as per the Political Parties Act, once the Party is suspended it cannot hold itself out or function as a Political Party. This would include its functions to be present in Parliament.

In the National Federation Party Suspension Case, the High Court in paragraph 21 of its ruling had upheld that the Registrar was correct in announcing that the Party could not operate, function, represent or hold itself out to be a Political Party. The Judge said “once a political party is suspended there is no such political party in existence before the law during the period of suspension and therefore it cannot operate as a Political Party…”

Since the party has not been de-registered yet, Mr., Nawaikula, in referring to section 20 of the Act, is rather putting the cart before the horse. Since there still remains significant time to remedy the contravention, going any further on the effects of section 20 is rather moot at this point.

At this time, ladies and gentleman, it is of paramount importance that officials in the suspended party act on remedying the breaches, if they have not done so till now, instead of making such poorly researched statements on social media. Having perused such statements, I am obliged to clarify the legal position and on the same note, I caution Mr. Nawaikula to seek proper legal advice before he produces such articles to mislead the public.

Two years to Earliest Potential Writ Day – Statement by EC Chair, Mr Suresh Chandra

Statement by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission

Mr Suresh Chandra

Suva – 09/03/2018

Bula Vinaka ladies and gentleman, and thank you for joining us.

I have a few announcements to make today but I would like to start by reminding everyone that tomorrow, we will be exactly two years away from a potential Writ Day.

26 May 2022 is the earliest date on which the Writ for the next General Election can be issued.

The next General Election is not far away and the Electoral Commission (EC) would like to address a few important matters as we head into pre-electoral preparations for the next election.

1. The Candidate’s Eligibility Requirements
We would like to remind potential candidates to be wary of their residential status if they are keen on meeting the candidate’s eligibility requirements in the next election.

Residency qualification, was an issue faced by several candidates in the 2014 and 2018 general elections.

The Electoral Act 2014, Section 23 (4) (c) states a person is eligible to be nominated as a candidate for election to Parliament only if the person is ordinarily resident in Fiji for at least 2 years immediately before being nominated.

If you are planning to contest in the next General Election, as per section 23 (5) of the Electoral Act, 2014 you will need to be in the country for an aggregate period of not less than 18 months out of the two years immediately after being nominated.

2. Ball draw for Ballot Papers
One year from now, the EC will be conducting a ball draw to select the first number that will appear on the Ballot Paper for the next General Election.

The numbers used in the 2018 General Election will not be used again.

The number draw is pursuant to Section 36(2) (c) of the Electoral Act 2014. The Act outlines that the Electoral Commission is required to approve the first, three-digit number of the Ballot Paper.

The conduct of a public draw promotes the principles of transparency which is essential to the electoral process.

3. Provisional Polling Venue List
In preparation for the next General Election, the FEO is publishing the List of Provisional Polling Venues it intends to use.

The Provisional List can be accessed through the FEO website.

The List currently contains 1,423 Polling Venues including Election Day and Pre-Poll venues. These are the same Polling Venues that were used in the 2018 General Election.

The FEO will conduct its verification process on the availability and suitability of those venues towards the end of this year.

In the 2018 General Election Joint Report, the EC had recommended FEO to propose a full list of venues at least two years prior to the first date the Writ can be issued.

The framework also requires that at least a three (months) consultation process is available for comments and suggestions from Political Parties and stakeholders in respect of those Polling Venues.

Hence, we are inviting interested individuals and stakeholders to provide FEO with feedback on these Polling Venues by using the Online Survey available on the Polling Venue Locator App at www.pvl.feo.org.fj.

4. Phasing out of VoterCard 1.0
I would also like to announce that the FEO has decided to extend the phasing out of VoterCard 1.0 or the green coloured VoterCard to 30 June 2021.

The decision was made considering the current COVID-19 crisis. We are in difficult times and as such we do not want to burden voters with having to rush and replace their VoterCards.

Therefore, voters who are still holding onto the green coloured VoterCard now have one more year to upgrade to VoterCard 2.0 or the blue coloured VoterCard.

5. Online Register for Political Parties
We are pleased to announce the launch of the Online Register for Political Parties.
In line with its 2020-2023 Strategic Plan, the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) has developed an Online Register of Political Parties, so any voter or member of the public requiring any information on Political Parties can access the register for the information they need.

Ladies and gentleman, allow me to show you the Online Register.

1. Go to the FEO website at www.feo.org.fj
2. Navigate to Political Parties menu under the Elections tab
3. Click on Political Parties Register

The online register has the name of the Party, the details of the Registered Officer, names of office holders and the date of registration.

Ladies and gentleman, I would like to conclude by saying that the FEO, under the guidance of the EC, has already kick-started pre-electoral preparations and we are going all out to ensure that every process pertaining to a successful General Election is carried out with the highest levels of quality and transparency.

 

Thank you very much for coming today.

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