MAN GETS PRE-MARKED BALLOT IN FIJI ELECTION

By Leone Cabenatabua and Osea Sive

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 1, 2001 – Fiji Sun)---In another polling shock 60-year-old Jope Vunibokoi opened his ballot paper to find that it was already ticked above the line.

The incident happened at the Nailaga Polling Station in Ba.

Mr. Vunibokoi said he was shocked and angry when polling clerks thought he had made a mistake.

"I opened the first paper and voted for the vara," he said.

"But when I opened the second ballot paper I was shocked to see that a tick was placed beside the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party symbol," he said.

"I complained to one of the polling clerks and he thought that I had made a mistake but I told him the ballot had been already marked. I knew what I was going to vote for and it was the bui-ni-ga."

Mr Vunibokoi said the presiding officer admitted that something was wrong and he was told to cross the tick already there and to tick the symbol of his choice.

Presiding officer Rubeni Fatiaki admitted the incident, saying they had advised Mr Vunibokoi to put a cross on the already placed tick and to cast his vote.

The heated battle between the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party continues. Labour candidate Gaffar Ahmed has reported to the Ba police that the NFP has been buying votes.

"We have evidence that a son of the NFP candidate and supporters bought food and visited people in the Yalalevu community. This is illegal under the Election Act and we are taking legal action against them," Mr Ahmed said.

In reply, veteran NFP politician Vinod Patel said Labour "can go to hell because we are clean."

"We are not frightened of anybody and do not play dirty games. Those accusations by Gaffar is a sign of panic as they are not sure of winning their seats," Mr Patel said.

 

CHAUDHRY QUERIES RIGAMOTO

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 1, 2001 – Fiji Sun)--Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry has asked the Supervisor of Elections to investigate an incident where a voter was given a pre-ticked ballot paper.

In a letter to Elections Supervisor Walter Rigamoto, Mr. Chaudhry said the "alarming" incident at the polling station at Nailaga, Ba, yesterday morning should be investigated promptly and action taken accordingly.

Mr. Chaudhry said a Labour supporter was given a ballot paper that had already been ticked for the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party. When he complained to the polling officers, Mr. Chaudhry said, the voter was asked to cross off the tick and place his own tick by the symbol of his choice.

After doing as was instructed, the 60-year-old villager complained to the party shed. When a reporter who had witnessed the scene questioned the presiding officer on the issue, he was told the villager had made a mistake himself and wanted to change his vote, Mr Chaudhry said. "In this case, he should have been issued fresh ballot papers. Why was this not done?" questioned Mr Chaudhry.

"The man’s vote as it stands is now invalid and is a denial of his right to vote as he chooses."

Mr Chaudhry said the voter insisted the tick was a computer tick that was already on the paper.

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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