Bula vinaka ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attendance.

 

This afternoon I would like to announce the procedures that the Fijian Elections Office will be following when it comes to voting by persons with disabilities.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, as we are aware, Section 57 of the Electoral Act specifically states that when a voter is at a Polling Station and suffers from incapacity by either blindness or other physical reason from voting, the voter may request the Presiding Officer to assist him or her to cast a vote.

 

However, we are also aware of the fact that earlier this year that Parliament passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and Fiji has also ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As such the requirements under section 47(c) on the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act now becomes the law.

 

Section 47 reads that – all persons with disabilities have the right to effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others directly or through the assistance of a representative and the right and the opportunity for person with disabilities to vote and be elected including by;

Section 47, Subsection (c): guaranteeing the free expression of the will persons with disabilities as electors and to this end where necessary at the request allowing assistance in voting by a person of their own choice.

 

Following the approval by Parliament of this law, the FEO has thereafter sought legal opinion and we have now modified the procedures for voting by person to disabilities as follows.

 

A person who is suffering from disability may now select the person of their own choice who has to be a registered voter, to assist the person with disabilities to mark their ballot paper inside the polling station on Election Day. They can also do the same for Pre-Poll.

 

However ladies and gentlemen, there are few matters that have to be complied with:

 

  1. The person assisting the voter must be a registered voter;
  2. The Presiding Officer appointed by the FEO will be overseeing the process of assistance being provided by this person selected by the voter.

 

The Presiding Officer will record the details of the voter as well as the person assisting the voter in the Presiding Officers Record Book to ensure that information regarding this assistance being provided is available for reference purposes.

In terms of the provision of assistance, in order to protect voters as well as the integrity of the elections the FEO has imposed the requirement that a person may only assist up to two person with disabilities.  Thereafter, that person is no longer eligible to provide any other assistance to any other voter at the same polling station.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, this change in the procedure is to align the FEO in accordance with the requirement of the Rights of Person with Disabilities Act as well as the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

 

The FEO has consulted Disabled Persons Organizations in relation to this procedure prior to the approval process.

 

So, on Election Day or during Pre-Poll, persons living with disabilities now has the opportunity to elect a person of their choice – who has to be a registered voter – to assist them in marking the ballot papers.

 

Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.