It’s all about giving everyone a fair go
Ph: (679) 6708088 Email: jyotip@fijisun.
Political parties are looking forward to the rules of this year’s selections. The rules will govern the conduct of parties from the campaign to polling day. To get to this point they had to fulfill other requirements also. But Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) seem to enjoy a free rein or unfettered freedom. Some exploit it to push the political agenda of their offshore financial backers. Will their role in the elections come under scrutiny as well? Every country has “blackout” dates when political parties cannot campaign or advertise before voting begins. Should the same rules apply to vocal NGOs from the time when the dates of elections are announced? What is Government doing about this? It is common knowledge that some NGOs promote their own brand of ideologies and any political parties that do not fit into their prescribed beliefs are usually maligned. The Government has become a regular target of criticism and vilification in progressing the country towards democratic elections. Every step it took has come under severe scrutiny. The older parties such as the Fiji Labour Party, Social Democratic Liberal Party, National Federation Party and the newer ones such as the People’s Democratic Party have largely been spared. The Citizen Constitutional Forum has led the NGO attack on Government. This is expected to escalate when Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama announces his political party soon. It is common knowledge that many of the NGOs have wealthy and powerful offshore financial backers who have an agenda. It is understood that recently one NGO was given about $1 million to promote a certain ideology of a financer. This is the kind of money that political parties can only dream of. But if they sing the right tune they could also benefit indirectly from that kind of support. It gives them an unfair advantage over rivals who have different views. This a worry and it justifies a closer examination to make sure that all parties are given a fair go in this election. If NGOs wield enough influence to sway public opinion, a question needs to be asked: Should NGOs’ role be clearly defined? Or should they have a role at all? It is also understood that an NGO recently requested the Elections Office to provide it with a breakdown of all voters based on their ethnicity. Its motive seems highly questionable. Playing the race card in this election tantamounts to holding on to a relic of the dark days of the past. In this new Fiji, there will be no voting on racial lines for the first time. The election will also see the biggest participation of young voters in Fiji’s history. But the environment should be created to ensure that its fair and the election rules will guarantee that.