Fiji political parties call for probe into elections chief Saneem’s ‘behaviour’

Mohammed Saneem
Fiji's Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem ... monitoring during the 2018 General Election. Image: Jovesa Naisua/Fiji Times file photo

By Litia Cava in Suva

Leaders of four political parties in Fiji are calling for a “complete clean-up” of the Elections Office before preparations for the 2022 election get underway.

A joint statement endorsed by the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader Viliame Gavoka, Freedom Alliance Party leader Jagath Karunaratne, Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry and Unity Fiji party leader Savenaca Narube also called for an investigation of the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, for alleged misbehaviour.

They claim that Saneem had made “haphazard and uninformed decisions” and should be investigated.

The leaders said they would take legal action against Saneem if they did not receive a response from the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC).

The four leaders have given seven days to the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) to respond to their complaint against Saneem.

A joint statement by the leaders stated that they had lodged a complaint against Saneem to the chairman of the commission, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on August 20.

“Our lawyers have delivered a follow-up letter to the COC chairman on November 9, demanding that the commission replies to our original complaint within seven days, or we will take legal action,” the joint statement said.

‘Sufficient grounds’
“In our initial letter of complaint to COC, we had cited what we believe were sufficient grounds under the Constitution to appoint a tribunal to investigate the misbehaviours of the SOE.”

The leaders claimed that the government was quick to suspend Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma when the state lost its case against MP Niko Nawaikula.

“Likewise, we call on the commission to immediately suspend the SOE pending the appointment of a disciplinary tribunal.

“In our view, the misbehaviours of the SOE are much more flagrant than what is alleged against the SG.”

They also said in November 2016 the Court of Appeal had ruled against Saneem on legal action taken by the Electoral Commission regarding the eligibility of two candidates in the 2014 General Election.

The statement noted that Saneem had disallowed the candidacy of a Fiji Labour Party candidate but allowed a candidate of the FijiFirst Party to contest the election despite a ruling against those decisions by the Electoral Commission.

‘Gross misbehaviour’
“The insubordination by Mr Saneem of the directive of the Electoral Commission is gross misbehaviour and, under normal disciplinary rules of the public service, should have led to his summary dismissal. The statement claimed that four court proceedings in recent years had gone against the SOE,” the statement said.

“We believe that most people have lost confidence in the incumbent SOE. His misbehaviour must be investigated as soon as possible.

“The people need to regain trust in the election administrators of the nation.”

Questions sent to Saneem and Bainimarama remained unanswered when The Fiji Times went to press last night.

Litia Cava is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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