Yabaki’s view on free, fair
Reverend Akuila Yabaki Suva
Now that the visiting Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) has come and gone; and so has the Commonwealth Secretariat Team- all within about a week – and each visiting team has left us with their bundle of advice about where Fiji is placed in terms of holding free and fair elections by international standards, the onus is therefore now upon Fiji’s people and voters in particular to take up the cudgel for achieving that goal. A seven-member Electoral Commission is now established to oversee the conduct of the 2014 elections. We are soon to have the Electoral Decree announced at end of February, so we are told, and also the much awaited naming of who is the independent Supervisor of Elections. It will soon become news that apart from Voreqe Bainimarama there will be others in his cabinet who will also stand for the 2014 elections. The next key step then is that six months before elections the current government leaves office once the date of election is announced and a caretaker government takes over. Another is that anyone who wishes to stand for elections resigns any office of state. There must be no use of government facilities – vehicles, planes, boats or offices – to fight the elections as this will give unfair advantage to people already in power. What we see before our very eyes is the promotion of government achievements or results for campaign purposes. Whether the objective is explicitly or implicitly campaign-related, such publicity in an electoral context could confer and unfair advantage to people already in power. Also the elections must be free of military control and members of the military serving in civilian office seen as having resigned from military office on the day elections are announced. Fiji’s reinstatement into full Commonwealth membership at the advice of the MCG will come and can only happen through the restoration of constitutional civilian democracy, the rule of law and human rights.