‘My way or highway’ bill a product of Fiji dictatorship, says Prasad

Opposition NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad speaking in Fiji Parliament
Opposition NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad speaking in the Fiji Parliament. Image: Fiji Parliament/Fiji Times

By Luke Nacei in Suva

Fiji’s pposition National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad told Parliament yesterday that the Electoral Registration of Voters (Amendment) Bill was the product of dictatorship, pseudo-democracy and the “my way or the highway” approach to governance in a bid to ensure continuity of FijiFirst rule in the country.

Professor Prasad said the changes did not even remotely resemble the flaws exposed by the High Court about registration of names of voters after a successful case in the Court of Disputed Returns by SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula.

Prasad said Nawaikula’s nominations for election candidature had been duly accepted and approved by the Supervisor of Elections twice, in 2014 and 2018.

He said the Supervisor of Elections failure rate in removing candidates for elections as well as members of Parliament was alarming.

“This Bill is the product of dictatorship, pseudo-democracy and my way or the highway approach to governance in order to ensure continuity of the FijiFirst rule in this country,” he said.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said in 2015, the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem had been asked by the Pacific Islands Forum to lead the observer mission group to Bougainville, in 2016 he had been part of the MSG Observer Mission to the Vanuatu snap elections and in 2017 he had been part of the observer mission to the Tongan elections.

He said Saneem also held elections in a “fair and credible” manner.

Parliament yesterday passed the Bill, which now requires Fijians to use the name as stated in their birth certificate and no other aliases.

The Bill, which has now become an Act of Parliament, was tabled by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and fast-tracked under Standing Order 51.

Debating legislation in Parliament before the vote yesterday, Sayed-Khaiyum referred to the ruling of the Court of Disputed Returns last month in the case of Nawaikula.

He said Nawaikula’s case had a significant impact on the National Register of Voters, and the changes to the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill were necessary to ensure people registered with the names on their birth certificate.

Sayed-Khaiyum told Parliament that in its ruling, the court had stated that the law did not specifically require the use of birth certificate names and for the purpose of the registration as a voter allows the use of names other than the birth certificate name.

He said neither the court nor the legal counsel had considered the practical implications of such a strict literal reading of the law, and it was not brought to the court’s attention and therefore, they did not expect to make a ruling on that.

Fiji faces a general election next year.

Republished from The Fiji Times with permission.

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