Statement by the Supervisor of Elections

Mr Mohammed Saneem

Presiding Officer’s Training Launch

FEO HQ – Suva – 07th February, 2018 – 8:00am

The Supervisor of Elections, Mr Mohammed Saneem

FEO Directors;

Presiding and Assistant Officers trainees;

Invited Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and a warm welcome to the Presiding Officers Training for the 2018 General Election.

Congratulations on your shortlisting to be the Polling station managers on Election Day or during Pre-poll. On the date of polling, you all will be the senior most election officials on the ground and in-charge of the polling place. This is a tremendous responsibility and we all believe that each of you have proven on merit that you are capable of the task.

I would like to thank all the FEO trainers for their excellent efforts these past couple of months training the 10,000 plus applicants and assessing them for the positions. So far we have run 546 training sessions.

Training commences for Presiding Officers and Assistant Presiding Officers

Ladies and Gentlemen, this 1 day training is an essential component for preparing you to manage polling. It will prepare you for all the tasks that you have to undertake and also to administer. Do not underestimate the importance of any task. All of them are important. I repeat – all of them are important.

The Presiding Officers manual will be your guide and it will have all the answers you may have. It has been designed by experts and has stood the test of the 2014 General Election. For those who may be doing this a second time, we assure you that the contents of the manual have been thoroughly reviewed and comprehensively tested to allow users to implement smooth polling day operations.

If I were you, I would read this manual inside out as many times as possible to prepare myself for the task.

The 2014 General Election and the 2018 General Election pose an exciting opportunity to Fijians that we never had before – the opportunity to run the Country’s election ourselves.

Yes – ordinary Fijians now have the opportunity to be polling officials, counting officials, postal vote officials etc etc. So, when I submit the results to the Electoral Commission after the election – I will gladly tell them that I am here to deliver the final results from all polling stations around the country on behalf of some 15,000 Fijians. This is the will of the Fijian People!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we all must ensure that we work according to the Constitution, the laws and the Electoral Commission guidelines.

The team at FEO has transferred all the necessary legal requirements into the manuals for you. Use the manuals. Follow all instructions to the letter. Do not invent/ improvise the processes to suit yourself. There will be polling agents and observers that will be trained to check that you follow all the procedures.

I want to specially mention that every election official must ensure that they do not get influenced by external factors in conducting their tasks. Do not change the order of events just because you may have accessed social media and find that someone is questioning any process.

Actually you may find several individuals who may want to create false rumors and unsubstantiated claims just to earn sympathy and maybe even some votes. It is my and the FEO Communications team’s responsibility to deal with Public Relations matters.

Then there are some individuals who continue to rut and harp about the concept of ‘free and fair elections’ but deliberately ignore or even do not know the basic tenets of a free and fair election. They are full of complaints and unsubstantiated allegations. Then there are some who cook up stories about 2014 General Election or even make their own version of the election processes.

In terms of risk – the FEO has elevated misinformation to the highest risk level.

Therefore ladies and gentlemen, the onus is on each and everyone who is appointed election official to ensure that they follow the procedures to the letter. I urge you to be polite, tolerant and always produce the best of the best customer service personalities you can on the day.

Every Fijian must be given the best service – they deserve nothing less. Every vote is valuable and as officials from the Election Management Body, we must treat all voters equally and with dignity.

Remember that a voter at the polling station is the most important person in the country. Help anyone that seeks it. As the Returning Officer for the Country it is my vision that when a voter returns from a polling place he/she is happy and content that we have served them well.

I wish you all the very best in the training and look forward to working with you as we deliver the 2018 General Election.

Thank you, Vinaka Vakalevu and Dhanyabadh.

…ends…