Welcome to the 2018 GENERAL ELECTION. To help me read out words on the site you will need to highlight text and click on the speaker icon. Allternatively, you may click on the listen button.   Click to listen highlighted text! Welcome to the 2018 GENERAL ELECTION. To help me read out words on the site you will need to highlight text and click on the speaker icon. Allternatively, you may click on the listen button.

Signing of Partnership Agreement for the Development of Course Materials on Election Management

The Attorney General and Minister for Education, Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum,

The Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to Fiji, HE Mr Raden Mohammad Benyamin Scott Carnadi,

The Deputy Vice Chancellor of USP, Prof. Richard Coll,

The Deputy Supervisor of Elections,

Invited Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula Vinaka and welcome to you all.

 

I have worked in an Election Management Body now for four years and six months. The evolution of elections in Fiji in that time has been something that I can vividly record and recall – even the smallest area of improvement or the smallest area of discussion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, over the last few years the Fijian Elections Office under the current framework has also been able to expose very small organizations such as Trade Unions, Taxi Associations or bigger organizations such as university staff and student associations to elections best practices.

As such, I now believe that it is necessary for Fiji and for our Pacific partners as well, to diversify our Electoral Education from something that we run internally to build capacity in our own staff and to keep within our boundaries, to actually expose through direct involvement in education institutions. The first round of training for Election Officials, Political Party Officials or Parliamentarians can actually be done at educational institutions rather than by Election Management Bodies or Civil Society.

My belief is that with the Introduction of the Election Management Program through the University of the South Pacific, the same can actually be implemented through to all the universities in Fiji. It’s an opportunity that the FEO is waiting to explore.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to state that when the FEO began, we only had 13 megabytes of data from which we had to make our manuals and prepare the staff for the 2014 General Election.

We heavily relied on experts and consultants such as Mr Lorrie McGrath and the Deputy Supervisor of Elections who helped us with the development of all procedures and manuals that we can now show and have in the office. That ladies and gentlemen, comes through experience.

But with time, we felt that there was a need for people to know these things by studying it; by actually reading textbooks. In 2014 after I left for home every afternoon, I sat down and read the ACE Project website which is the International Database on Election Discussion and at the end of the month of May in 2014, I must have read the entire website because I had printed around 1,700 pages.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that was the basis on which the FEO thereafter decided to do trainings on election management. We did not stick to the very top level or the political side but we went into the nitty gritty. We went into detail about designing the ballot papers in the way that we do; what some of the securities requirements are and what problems other countries faced.

We recently had to resolve a big debacle about what standing next to the table is.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we believe that there is room to study about elections, this is where ladies and gentlemen we would like to follow the footsteps of Indonesia, UK, Australia, the US, Canada and other European countries which are taking Electoral Education into universities.

It is more about having a theory driven evolution of election learning rather than experience driven election. We all want to have the situation where we already know what might go wrong rather than find out after doing it.

We need to broaden the capacity of the youth and the university students, academia as well as personnel on the ground, Political Parties, CSO’s and Election Management Bodies so that when they eventually get into any field of work elections remain as a significant portion of the good governance and the principle of integrity, fairness and credible election.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my experience in election has not only developed my career, but also greatly assisted me in my personal life. I hope that this program that we intend to build will build capacity around the need for elections to become an evolutionary platform rather than the stagnant code which become ancient day by day and it is realized years later that it is now applicable.

The Fijian Electoral Act in general is a very modern piece of legislation. It has recognized international practices which allows the FEO flexibilities as well as rigidity in terms of ensuring that Fijian elections are conducted on the best possible international standard and at the same time, I am subjected to review of the accepted and expected international form of free and fair election.

The University of the South Pacific has provided the platform for Fiji and our local regional partners so that our staff and students who may eventually win awards or scholarship are interested in taking this Election Management course; This can be their career path – with the FEO, the parliament, or Ministry of Foreign Affairs – in terms of their democracy reporting responsibilities – it could be a lawyer who works in the Solicitor General’s Office or it could even be an accountant but who has interest in ensuring that the election that Fiji conducts is fair and credible and follows the law.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we would like to create a culture where people are learned in the subject rather than the knowledge by experience or to wake up and decide that this what a free and fair election is going to be. We have seen a lot of that in Fiji. Imagine our country in a few years’ time when all the Universities start offering subjects in election and students know and can access the basics of recognized international principles rather than homemade information and knowledge.

They will hold the Election Management Body to account – they will hold the politician to account as well as other stakeholders. This will only promote our democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to conclude by thanking the Indonesian government, Professor Carnadi, the Australian High Commission, Prof. Sandra Tarte and her team. I would like to thank the honorable Minister for his time this afternoon in witnessing the signing of today’s event.

I would like also thank our partner the International IDEA and I wish that this Agreement becomes a well-recognized force of education in the Pacific region as well.

Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem Disability Participation in the 2018 General Election FEO HQ – 07-08-18 – 2.30pm

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.

Statement by the Supervisor of Election Mr Mohammed Saneem Updated National Voter Register Statistics FEO HQ – 1st August, 2018

Bula Vinaka ladies and gentlemen of the media and welcome to the Fijian Elections Office [FEO].
Ladies and gentlemen, after a thorough verification and adjudication process, the FEO has finalised the Voter Roll as at 31st July, 2018.
We now have a total of 631,895 registered voters and the breakdown is as follows:
In the Central Division, there are 261,603 registered voters;
In the Eastern Division, we have recorded 25,941 registered voters;
From the Western Division, the FEO has registered 242,171 Voters; and
From the Northern Division, the number of registered voters stand at 94,200.
There are 7,980 voters who have registered overseas and would be eligible to cast their vote via postal ballot.
There are 313,239 registered female voters and 318,656 registered male voters.
We had a total of 3,572 new registrations between June and the end of July.
Currently, John Wesley Primary School is the Polling Venue with the highest number of voters with 5,172 while Dogotuki Village FEO Tent has the smallest number of voters with 19.

Ladies and gentlemen, if some of you had attended our previous announcement regarding the National Voter Roll, you would notice that as at 31st May, 2018 the total stood at 636,764.
You will notice that there is a significant decrease number of voters as we have now successfully verified and removed 7,684 marked as deceased.
The confirmation for deceased voters was done through various aspects, firstly we got the data from the Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) Registry; the data was then verified through fieldwork during our nationwide drive as well as from our direct visits to various locations just to make sure the data is accurate.
Thereafter, ladies and gentlemen, we engaged with the Fiji National Provident Fund [FNPF] and I’d like to thank the CEO of FNPF for his assistance in the verification process to check the number of voters that are deceased against the records held at Fiji National Provident Fund.
We also checked this data against other agencies such as the Ministry of Health and the Judiciary to ensure that those people who are confirmed deceased are only removed from the roll.
At the end of that exercise we managed to confirm 7,684 and they have been now removed from the voters list.
Ladies and gentlemen, currently when a person reports of a deceased voter they do not include their voter details in that report. This proves a little bit of an exercise for us to verify the status of a person in the event they have passed on.
So far, we have removed a total of 24,230 deceased voters from the roll including 14,696 in 2018. Between the months of June and July, we removed a total of 7,684 deceased voters.

However, we are still requesting family members, friends or members of communities to please inform us if there is someone on the voter roll who has passed away and should be removed. This is essential for the FEO to maintain a very clean an accurate roll.
We do not want to remove people without getting confirmation and as such we will go to great lengths to ensure that the persons that have been removed from the voters list are confirmed as deceased.
The motive of an accurate voter list is to ensure that eligible voters are able to cast a ballot, reduce inaccuracies, and speed up the voter identification process at polling venues.
An international report by the Public Interest Legal Foundation of the United States titled ‘Best Practices for Achieving Integrity in Voter Registration’, stated that accurate voter rolls are important to the electoral and political process as errors in voter information data could have a significant or negative impact on the result of a general election. This is the kind of integrity that Fiji needs to maintain.
We have forms available online for any person who wishes to confirm the status of a voter who may have passed on and it is a simple process which you can fill and send to us.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to once again remind everybody that voter registration will cease following the issuance of the Writ.
It is therefore important for all eligible Fijians who still have not registered to still do so.
We now have Voter Services Centres open all over the country as much as 28 Centres and Fijians can take advantage of any of these Centres nearest to their place of residence.

As I have said, the data that we have released today is not the final data as voter registration is ongoing. We will be releasing the final data following the issuance of the Writ.
Incorrect statements by Fiji Media Watch
The Fijian Elections Office would also take this opportunity to clarify an incorrect statement issued by an organization holding itself out as the Media Watch Group and we have been provided a copy of the statement which is also published on their Facebook Page as well as sent to media organisations as the Fiji Times was querying about it.
We have noted that in the said statement this group has stated that the date for the General Election is 26th November.
We have perused the statement and we have found that the makers of the statement have failed to take into consideration various provisions on the Constitution which would then allow them to make a correct decision the legal position regarding the Election Date.
The Constitution is very clear. Following the conclusion of three and six months of Parliament, the Prime Minister may advice the President at any time to dissolve Parliament and issue the Writ for the Election.
And this is a necessity. This does not mean that the Parliament would have to convene and vote for a majority for the Parliament to be dissolved but it’s directly on the advice of the Prime Minister to the President.
At this point in time, as the election management body, we would like to urge caution to all groups such as the Media Watch Group and any other group that may formed for the purposes of advocating for the 2018 General Election to be cautious about the types of publications that they produce particularly when it is being disseminated across of mediums such as Facebook as it will only create confusion.
The Fijian Elections Office has already published numerous materials that can be relied on to get the most accurate information in relation to the election and these groups are invited to first read through our materials so that they know from the election management body directly what the legal position is and in the event they have any queries, they may contact us for clarification.
For the purposes of this statement, we would like to categorically state that the Media Watch Group statement as issued on 31st July is incorrect in law and the fact that it has been disseminated without proper vetting in terms of the legal side of things makes it quite cautious and I may say even irresponsible.
Henceforth, the Fijian Elections Office urges all groups such as this group to seek clarification from the FEO before publically announcing any position in law as they may end up misleading voters.


Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem – MOU Signing with International IDEA

Bula Vinaka Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would like to welcome once again Leena to the FEO. And of course Adhy is here as well. It’s good to have you here.

I also acknowledge the presence of our Deputy Supervisor, Directors, Technical Consultants, team from the International IDEA office in Fiji and of course my friends and the colleagues of the FEO.

This year is quite special for us as we are celebrating our fourth anniversary.  This occasion also coincides with the conclusion of the term of the first MoU that the FEO signed post creation.

This was the MoU with international IDEA. It is an honor and a privilege for the FEO to receive the agreement of International IDEA in the first place to sign MoU with a newly budding election management body in a country that just transition into electoral democracy.

And following that, the execution of that agreement the FEO and the International IDEA have collaborated on various fronts to enhance the evolvement of election procedures and practices in Fiji.

The most notable aspect we must say has been the participation of International IDEA in the Pacific Electoral Network’s meeting in Nadi wherein there was a presentation that was done by International IDEA to the entire Electoral Management Bodies throughout the Pacific on election best practices.

International IDEA is also known as the largest publication house of election literature in the world, and they have kindly agreed to supply the FEO with Election text books that we were able to deliver to ten major libraries around the country.

This was part of the plan to enrich libraries and resources within our country with international standard text literature on election, something that we overlooked in the past in our country.

International IDEA also was greatly helpful in assisting the FEO in our endeavors to first create and furnish our first library on election literature in Fiji.

I was glad to be invited by International IDEA to contribute a chapter to one of its publication titled ‘Introducing Biometric Technology in Elections’ on the use of biometrics in the voter registration processes.

May I thank Leena and Adhy for this opportunity as this publication from 2017 is now available on the International IDEA website as well as forming an assistance mechanism for any election management body that may intend to adopt the voter registration tools that Fiji currently has.

International IDEA also introduced to Fiji the election risk management tool that it has developed to assist election management bodies like us in assessing, tracking and managing risks as well as averting them.

This tool is widely used by Election Management Bodies and I am privileged to say that FEO looks forward to the use of this tool by Mereseini’s team in this Election.

International IDEA also collaborated with us as Leena has mentioned for the development of the Candidates Handbook which has been drafted based on guidelines from International IDEA and we were glad to facilitate this especially in our office and thank you Adhy for the tireless effort and the person that International IDEA had assigned as well as for your own contribution to this manual.

I am sure all the Candidates for the upcoming General Election will appreciate having such a guide on hand and they have to read it.

The FEO would like to once again thank International IDEA for its continuing collaboration with us and we are looking forward to something interesting in the future.

In fact our actual endeavor is to eventually list Fiji as one of the signatory countries to the International IDEA Convention so that we are able to benefit from and participate in electoral democracy related activities of countries that are already on that platform perhaps plan for the next strategic plan.

I’d like to welcome the fact that International IDEA has already established your office in Fiji as part of the C3 project and it creates an opportunity for Fijians as well as the election management body to benefit through collaboration with this great organization in our local arena.

Thank you for agreeing to continue to extend our relationship and I look forward to fruits of this relationship bearing greater access to elections and elections practices in Fiji and in the future.

Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem, Indian High Commission Vehicle Handover

His Excellency, the Indian High Commissioner, Mr Vishvas Sapkal,

Karyl Winter, our Deputy Supervisor of Elections,

Representatives from the High Commission of India to Fiji,

Ladies and gentlemen.

First of all it is an honour and a privilege to once again be here to receive some assistance towards the 2018 General Election.

For the Fijian Elections Office [FEO] and on behalf of the team at the FEO your Excellency – and the people of Fiji may I take this opportunity to thank you and the Indian Government for their kind assistance to our election management body in terms of the facilitation of transporting equipment for the General Election in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen on the day we received this assistance in a form of a cheque for the sum of $224,000.00, I mentioned that the Election is the largest logistic exercise in peace time for any country and Fiji is no different.

The unique features of election involves a lot of transportation requirement to various areas through roads that require tough terrain vehicles, as well as vehicles that can sustain the off road requirements.

The Mahindra vehicles that we have purchased from the assistance are actually designed for these roads.

The vehicles are, from our experience in 2014 – very strong vehicles, reliable in these condition. Vehicles that can actually handle some of the difficult driving that we have to manage through to get the equipment across and get the equipment back.

Your Excellency, the Mahindra Scorpio that we have acquired from the assistance is a six speed turbo charge vehicle that is very strong and has got enough power to deliver materials to our interior locations.

Of course you will see them around in Suva for the first couple a thousand kilometres for us to ensure that initial service and checks are done, after that we will definitely deploy into the areas.

So far, we have received a total of 14 vehicles from the Indian Government for the FEO as well as the luxury vehicle for the Electoral Commission transportation that His Excellency handed over at least a month ago.

We’d like to acknowledge the tremendous support as well as the friendship that the FEO shares with the High Commission of India in Fiji and credit goes to His Excellency Mr Vishvas Sapkal for his steadfast approach.

His Excellency has been a great friend to the FEO and has stepped forward to provide us the assistance and guidance that we may need at any point in time.

This morning ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to especially thank and personally recognize and endorse His Excellency’s commitments towards Fiji, the Fijian people as well as the FEO and we decided that it would be appropriate for us to honor His Excellency’s continuing efforts by providing and by honouring him through the presentation of a small token to commemorate his assistance.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I now please present His Excellency with the token of appreciation from all of us at the FEO.

Before I conclude I just want to talk a little bit more about the vehicle because this is election time and we usually have to do a lot of awareness to ensure that a lot of people are reminded that there is an election.

We decided to personalize the number plates of the vehicle to something more prominent and more appealing and behind us is the black Mahindra which has numbered ‘VOTE’ on its right is ‘I VOTE’ and ‘MY VOTE’ and far left is ‘WE VOTE’ and we will be distributing these vehicles to the Divisions.

So I am sure that the members of the public will remember, the Election is coming.

We are indeed very thankful for the support in terms of transportation for the General Election, please accept our sincere appreciation.

With those few words, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your attendance.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Statement by the Supervisor of Elections Mr Mohammed Saneem Results App, Results Website and Special Edition Lavetiviti Launch Suva

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission,

Electoral Commissioners,

Members of the Diplomatic Corp,

Invited Guests,

Members of the Media.

Bula vinaka ladies and gentlemen.

I’d like to begin by thanking the Chairperson for his statement and remarks, it is greatly encouraging to receive such a statement from the boss in the morning as we proceed to another important week this week ladies and gentlemen.

From our part, the Fijian Election Office has ensured that all our goals and outcomes are not only focused on the better delivery of the 2018 General Election but also sets the foundation for an improved election in the future.

It’s about time we Fijians stop discouraging ourselves from thinking that we are too far behind or that we cannot achieve something just because we are from the tiny dot in the world map.

I refuse to subscribe to this line of thought and anyone who pushes this idea.

Ladies and gentlemen, this morning we have proven that if you set your mind beyond your comfort zone you achieve anything.

I still remember the day I had the idea discussed with Vijendra and his response was – “Yes, I can do it.”

Congratulations Vijendra, it’s in our hands literally and you have done it. Thank you.

The website idea also started from the famous whiteboard at the office where majority of the initiatives has taken shape from squares and text on a whiteboard – the possibilities have become endless.

Nathienial has pulled through very well and here we are ladies and gentlemen, we have a result website that can allow anyone who accesses it direct results at their comfort.

We have now progressed from the traditional result announcement on the media onto more direct accessible and available platforms.

Considering 40% of our population are below the age of 40, these will become the initiative of today for the future.

I am also very thankful to the team that work tirelessly in compiling the special edition of the Lavetiviti. My sincere thanks to Mario, Lynette, Shivika, Elesi, James, Jiuta, Darshani, Edwin, Arin, Shane, Riaz, Shelvin and everyone else who pitched in to have this publication ready.

I am sure it will make healthy reading particularly for our observers.

This morning we have also launched the live feed of our warehouse facility.

We had previously announced that there will be various locations that will be under guard and cameras will be placed to be live 24/7 on the internet so that you can also view the stored ballot

boxes from your mobile phones or your personal computers.

The live feed that we demo to you today will be placed on the Count Centre, Result Centre as well as the packing arena as we have advised.

We want Fijians to be able to see the actual process taking place.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the 2018 General Election, we will try our best to show the election process for all voters and Fijians to decide.

At the end of the day in this process there will be a winner and those who do not have a majority – this how democracy works.

I’d like to thank all our distinguished invited guests for taking out their time from their busy schedule and attending this event.

A special thanks to Mrs Paulini Lavetiviti who has accepted our invitation to join us on this occasion.

I wished to the Chair and the members of the Commission and the team from the Fijian Election Office and our media partners for their attendance.

Vinaka.

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