FIJI VOTING WITH A DIFFERENCE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 30, 2001 – Fiji Post/FijiLive)---It was voting with a difference for the elderly couple -- Mullah Ji, who is 70 years old, and his 65-year-old wife Sakina Bi. The two had to vote inside a car within the election boundary, as they were unable to walk.

They had to be carried from their home by Fiji Labour Party supporters to vote at the Naduna Arya School polling station. They came in a vehicle that was not allowed into the election boundary because of election posters on the vehicle.

The instruction from the presiding officer was that because they could not walk, they should be transferred to another vehicle, be driven to the legalized election boundary and to vote inside the same vehicle.

This was done by the FLP supporters, who sought the Daily Post reporter's permission for the use of his hired vehicle. The couple was again separated and Mr. Ji was first driven to the election boundary to cast his vote.

After casting his vote, he was driven back, transferred to the FLP vehicle and his wife was driven in to cast her vote. The transfer was done only a meter (3.3 feet) away from the boundary and they were driven five meters (16.5 feet) to cast their votes.

Their daughter, Yasmin Bano, said her parents are both stroke victims and they could not walk and because they wanted to vote they had to be driven from their home, which is 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the polling station.

She said she was sorry for her parents, as transferring them from one vehicle to another caused a lot of pain.

"The polling officers don't feel the pain but my parents do and they should have been courteous enough to come out of the election boundary to see my parents cast their vote," Mrs. Bano said.

"They were only meters away and the police officers were there to witness all the action."

Fiji Labour Party candidate for the Labasa Indian communal, James Krishna, said it was a pity that the two could not be given special treatment, as the electoral rules made no allowance for such cases.

Mr. Krishna said the electoral regulations were made by the people and he would see that there is a change if he is elected to Parliament.

He said the regulation could have been breached with regard to the case of the two voters who were not able to walk.

"I promise if my party forms the next government, I'll see that there will be amendments to the Electoral Act."

The couple was happy that they were able to vote but were a bit frustrated when they were being transferred from one vehicle to another.

Mr. Krishna said that many old couples are reluctant to cast their votes because of the treatment usually given them.

The presiding officer at the Naduna Arya School polling station said that while they felt sorry for the elderly couple, they were following the laws governing elections.

He said he had made a decision for them to vote inside the car and that was the best be could offer within their elections regulations.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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