Fiji Forum Says New Party Decree Denies Citizens’ Rights

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Current decree would create ‘huge vacuum’ in political climate

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 23, 2013) – The Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree will be a major obstacle in ensuring genuinely free and fair elections in Fiji if it is to remain in place, says the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF).

Forum chief executive Reverend Akuila Yabaki reiterates that the government cannot act against the principles of democracy, by promulgating the "Political Party Decree" as it is wholly an issue for the new constitution to determine through the next phase of the constitution making process.

He said commitment to article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which calls for people to participate in government without being limited, restricted or defined undemocratically.

"This is not a sustainable approach as people will only take ownership in the process if they are truly allowed to participate."

"The views of the people were rather extensively expressed during the public consultations on the drafting of the constitution and many stated the loss of confidence and faith in politicians and political parties, however, the government should not impose limitations to the rights of political parties through such a decree," said Rev. Yabaki.

"The decree, as it stands, is unjustified and will deny the citizens of Fiji their right to be represented in a general election by persons or parties of their choice. It would leave a huge vacuum in Fiji’s current political climate and deter others, potential leaders, from standing in the 2014 planned elections."

Rev. Yabaki said while many aspects of the decree are aimed at bringing about accountability amongst the political parties, it is not in line with aspirations and norms of nation building as it targets and marginalizes certain groups and individuals from exercising their right to take part in the government and free and fair elections.

He added that the decree also makes assumptions that political parties need to be demographically and proportionally represented along the divisions which are unrealistic as political parties and their constituents and memberships may be aligned to the many diverse groups of Fiji.

"Groups or independents that represent the diverse and valid issues will fail to qualify favoring the bigger political parties, alliances and parties that will be backed by unscrupulous backers with funds and resources."

He went to say that the decree does not guarantee that the parties will be concerned with national issues but more on compliance and survival and the members and people’s needs will not become a priority. Attorney General and Elections Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while announcing the new decree last Tuesday stated that the new requirements under the decree will bring about transparency and accountability.

The Political Parties Decree is currently in effect and all existing political parties have till the 14th of February to re-register.

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