STATEMENT No 23: BEDDOES SAID TODAY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION IS BREACH OF ITS CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE TO PROVIDE FREE & FAIR ELECTIONS

DATE ISSUED:  August 31 2014

 

SODELPA CANDIDATE Mick Beddoes said today the Electoral Commission is in breach of its constitutional mandate as stated in Sec 75 (2) which is to conduct free and fair elections and the notion of One Person – One Vote –One Value has also been compromised.

Beddoes said that in TV advertisements being promoted by the Elections office, postal ballot voters are being provided a copy of the ‘Voter Instruction Booklet’ which has all of the candidates photos and numbers and therefore a postal ballot voter will have that in their possession at the time they cast their vote.

All other registered voters are being denied the same assistance or opportunity? WHY? Beddoes asked.

Beddoes said this act alone neutralizes the concept of One Person- One Vote –One Value and as a consequence the elections itself cannot be conducted in a ‘free & fair’ manner as is required of the Electoral Commission under Sec 75 (2) of the 2013 constitution.

Beddoes said that by allowing postal ballot voters the right to use the Voter Instruction Booklet, while at the same denying others the same opportunity, Commission is not treating all voters equally, rendering these elections unfair.

Beddoes said that on the Fiji One News Bulletin [29-08-14] it was reported that Election officials told Methodist Church Ministers that they would be given 2 ballot papers. One in case they make a mistake or change their mind?

Beddoes said the Electoral Commission needs to explain itself to the voters. How can we now be entertaining people who change their minds after they cast their votes? Surely once you cast your vote, that’s it? Valid or invalid that’s it.

By announcing voters will be given 2 ballot papers the commission is introducing the prospect of some people slipping in 2 votes if officials are not vigilant. Postal Ballot voters are given just one ballot paper, which means this is another unfair treatment of voters.

The solution to minimizing errors and invalid votes is to be ‘consistent and fair to all voters, postal, pre-polling or election day polling voters alike.

ALL VOTERS must be treated in exactly the same way and all voters must be allowed to have the ‘Voter Instruction Booklet’ with them as they cast their votes. It will minimize invalid votes, it will reduce anxiety, and all voters can then make an informed and free vote.

Beddoes has called on the Commission to exercise good common sense and for once make a decision that favors and assists voters by allowing every voter the right to a the ‘Voter Instruction Booklet’ handed to them with their ballot papers and which is returned for the next vote when they leave. Beddoes said it is a simple solution that will be transparent, helpful, just and the right thing to do to ensure free & fair elections.

Authorized By:       Mick Beddoes

When MONEY becomes more important than safety….. Replacing those captured while all other countries are recalling their peacekeepers as the situation is out of control

Going Golan

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, September 01, 2014

THE military has started selection of soldiers to replace the 44 Fijian peacekeepers who are captives of Islamist militants in the Golan Heights.

And RFMF commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga says there is no shortage of Fijian soldiers willing to replace them.

During a press conference yesterday morning, Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said Fiji remained committed to the UNDOF mission.

“In fact, yesterday, we started selection of the next 44 to go and replace the 44 that are now in captivity,” Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said. “If it happens that they’ve gone through some traumatic experience and need to be returned home, we have 44 ready to replace them.”

As of yesterday evening, all Filipino peacekeepers trapped by Islamic militants on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights were safely evacuated. But nothing is known of the whereabouts of the Fijian peacekeepers captured by Al Nusra militants on Friday.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga says their best guess is the 44 will be used as leverage in negotiations with the United Nations.

“We can only now guess what they want and the closest that we can come to is they will probably use our guys as leverage for something.

“But I don’t think it’s anything more than that. They know Fiji can’t offer anymore than what we have soldiers on the ground.”

The RFMF commander was pragmatic of the effect this approach will have on the al-Qaida linked Al-Nusra faction.

“Do they get political mileage for this? Maybe they do.

“But sooner or later they will be very unpopular because the whole world will come down against them.”

Meanwhile, as families trickled in to the crisis centre at the Officers Training School in Vatuwaqa for news of their loved ones, unverified photos of the captured 44 were making the rounds on social media.

The photos, one a group shot and the second a photo of the peacekeepers ID cards, were allegedly posted by Al-Nusra.

Military not taking sides

Tevita Vuibau
Monday, September 01, 2014

THE RFMF says they favour neither rebel nor government forces in Syria.

This after international reports quoted an Islamic Militant commander saying Fijian peacekeepers were kidnapped because UNDOF is aiding Syrian government forces.

But RFMF Commander Brigadier General Mosese Tikoitoga dismissed these claims saying the only contact they had with anyone outside UNDOF came when they treated wounded civilians at the hospital in their area.

He explained that even then they could tell the difference between soldiers and non-combatants.

“In these cases, even people who are firing at you, they throw away their weapons and they walk to you in civilian clothes and you can’t treat them as combatants, you must treat them as civilians,” Brig-Gen Tikoitoga said.

“That’s the reality on the ground unless you are in uniform then you are a soldier.

“There they treat you as civilians, you’re not a combatant and that’s the practical sense of what is happening in Syria.

Brig-Gen Tikoitoga also explained the UNDOF and Fijian peacekeepers maintained their neutrality between Israel and Syria.”

“We maintain our neutrality, we have a very good relationship with the Syrians on a personal relationship with the people on the ground as we do in Lebanon, as we do in Iraq.

“We also have a very good relationship with the Israeli’s as in all our peacekeeping missions but there is never a compromise of the operation, we don’t help them conduct their operations, we work with them and understand personalities but we don’t help them in their operations.”

Photo shows captured Fiji soldiers unharmed

 

Last updated 13:21 31/08/2014

khorasan313/Twitter

This photo, tweeted by an al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebel group, is thought to show 38 of the 44 Fiji soldiers they are holding prisoner at an unknown location

An al-Qaeda linked Syrian rebel group has this morning tweeted a picture of at least 38 of the 44 Fiji soldiers they are holding prisoner at an unknown location.

The soldiers, part of a United Nations border monitoring force, were captured without a fight, on Friday. Another UN group made up of 38 Filipino soldiers refused to surrender and are still fighting.

The unverified picture shows the unarmed soldiers apparently health.

Fiji Broadcasting reports that Military Forces Commander General Mosese Tikoitoga will update the country later today on the fate of the soldiers being held by the group Al Nusra Front.

Tikoitoga admitted yesterday they do not know where their men are now being held.

He would not release the soldiers’ names, citing the sensitivity of talks with the Syrian rebels.

He said the UN was conducting talks with the captors.

“They confirmed that our men are safe and they are all well.

Tikoitoga said according to the leader of the Al- Nusra group, they had been moved to a location out of the range of any security forces (Syrian security forces).

“So their whereabouts at this stage, unfortunately, I cannot confirm and nor can the UNDOF (UN Disengagement Observer Force) team.”

Amidst growing questions over why the Fijians so quickly surrendered, Tikoitoga said it was too early to judge what had happened.

“I think from the (Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF)) perspective this is the first time it has happened to us, we’ll continue to look at our operating procedures, we will not shy away from our responsibility as international peacekeepers.

“We understand what the UN is trying to do in the region and we understand our role as good global citizens. I am very hopeful that we will get our soldiers back in time, judging from past experiences where all UN hostages have been returned in good health.”

The capture of the Fijians comes as their country heads into general elections on September 17, the first elections since 2006 and a military coup.

On Friday the military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama appealed for the release of the soldiers.

“These men are peacekeepers, not combatants in the Syrian conflict, and there is no need for them to be detained,” he said.

There are currently 1223 peacekeepers serving in UNDOF from the Philippines, Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands. UNDOF has been tasked with monitoring a cease-fire between Syria and Israel since 1974

Fijian Soldiers surrender …… Filipino Soldiers are prepared to fight back rather than surrender as they are well-trained… they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers

Syrian rebels surround UN peacekeepers, hold more hostage

UN peacekeepers kidnapped at Golan Heights

A picture taken from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights shows armed men, reportedly rebel fighters, standing near vehicles in the Syrian side of the Golan, near the Quneitra border crossing. Source: AFP

SYRIAN rebels surrounded dozens of defiant Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and demanded they give up their weapons, hours after taking 43 Fijian soldiers hostage, authorities said.

Seventy-five Filipino members of a United Nations’ peacekeeping force were defending two posts on the Syrian side of Golan Heights, and were prepared to fight back rather than surrender, their commander in Manila said.

“We can use deadly force in defence of the UN facilities,” Colonel Roberto Ancan told reporters.

“I (would) just like to emphasise our troops are well-armed, they are well-trained… they are well-disciplined warrior peacekeepers.”

Syrian rebels, including fighters from the al-Qa’ida affiliate Al-Nusra Front, stormed a Golan Heights crossing at Quneitra on Wednesday, sparking an exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.

Quneitra is the only crossing between the Syrian and the Israeli-controlled side of the strategic plateau.

The rebels captured 43 Fijian members of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) yesterday, forcing them to surrender their weapons then taking them hostage.

Colonel Ancan said the rebels then used an English-speaking Fijian hostage to relay their demand to the Filipino peacekeepers to give up their weapons.

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said talks were underway to release the hostages, and they were believed to be safe.

“I want to assure the families of the soldiers we are doing everything possible to secure their safe return,”Mr Bainimarama said in a statement “The latest information we have is that they are safe and I can say now that the negotiations for their release have already begun.”

Mr Bainimarama said Fiji was “united as a nation in praying for their safe return”

The UN Security Council “strongly condemned” the assaults against the peacekeepers, which it said were carried out by “terrorist groups and by members of non-state armed groups.”

The council demanded the “unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers” and urged countries with influence to help win their release.

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The Philippine military said the soldiers were occupying two UNDOF posts about four kilometres apart.

The United Nations initially said 81 Filipinos were involved in the stand-off, however Filipino commander Ancan said there were 75.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was unclear which group had staged the attacks.

“Some groups are self-identified as affiliated to Al-Nusra but we are not able to confirm,” he said.

However the US State Department said Al-Nusra was definitely involved. “The United States strongly condemns the detention of UN peacekeepers and ongoing violence targeting the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights by non-state armed groups, including UN Security Council-designated terrorist group Al-Nusra Front,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The United States demanded the “unconditional and immediate release” of the Fijian peacekeepers, the statement said.

The UNDOF has been stationed in the buffer zone of the Golan Heights since 1974 to monitor a ceasefire between Syria and Israel.

Israel initially seized 1200 square kilometres of the Golan Heights during the 1967 Six-Day War, then annexed it in a move never recognised by the international community.

There are currently 1,200 peacekeepers: from the Philippines, Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands.

Since the Syrian war erupted in 2011, the plateau has been tense, with a growing number of rockets and mortar rounds hitting the Israeli side, mostly stray, prompting occasional armed responses.

The Philippines, which has 331 troops serving in UNDOF, announced on Saturday that it would pull out of the peace force because of security concerns.

Filipino defence officials said no fresh troops would be sent once the current batch of soldiers returned from duty in October.

Last year, the Philippines said it was considering pulling its Golan peacekeepers out after 25 of them were kidnapped but later freed by Syrian rebels in two separate incidents.

In assessing the latest crisis, UN officials noted the safe release of the Filipino peacekeepers last year.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino described the situation in the Golan Heights as “tense” but also sought to calm fears about the fate of the Filipino troops.

“So far, we should not worry. The news is that the situation looks stable,” Mr Aquino said.

 

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AFP

 

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PM assures the safety of detained troops

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation-1 hour ago
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has assured the nation that the Fijian Government is working closely with the United Nations for the release of the 43 Fijian …

Is Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum delaying the dangerous driving causing death case against his friend Praveen Bala?

28th August 2014,

The Honourable Minister of Justice

Fiji Islands

Att: Minister of Justice – Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Re: Puna Chand

In 2013 Praveen Bala killed my brother because of dangerous driving. There’s no magistrate

available to hear the case. This is the third time since December that no magistrate has been

found who can hear the case.

While you as the Minister of Justice busy shaking hands and smiling with Praveen Bala, can

you please take out time and provide justice to my innocent brother who has passed away

leaving behind three children.

Yours faithfully,

Ashnita Chandra