Fiji To Begin Elections Registration For Voters Overseas

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Consultant adds constitution ‘just been foisted’ on Fiji’s citizens

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 30, 2013) – The Fiji authorities are set to begin registering voters abroad, starting in New Zealand, for elections promised for next year.

The registration process will begin in Auckland and Wellington on 23 October and requires applicants to give thumbprints for verification.

Arielle Monk reports:

A New Zealand-based policy and management consultant, Sai Lealea, says as a potential voter he has concerns about the need for voters to register their thumbprint as verification.

"SAI LEALEA: Given the record of the regime in Fiji at the moment and the manner in which they’ve conducted themselves leading up to this process, and of course the constitution that has just been foisted on the people of Fiji... People will definitely have to think twice about the motives and therefore any process they put in place for elections even, such as the registration. It will be subject to some very close scrutiny and inevitably suspicion."

Mr. Lealea says the contrast between the Fiji registration process and New Zealand’s voting process is worrying.

"SAI LEALEA: When you compare it to New Zealand you’ve got your name listed on the electoral role and you just turn up with some form of identification, you know drivers license or that form of ID and be able to verify that. So you wonder what are the motives behind it. So of course people will really worry about the use of privacy."

Fiji’s Acting Secretary responsible for elections, Mohammed Saneem, says taking thumbprints will help eliminate fraudulent voting. A reporter for Auckland’s Radio Tarana, Sanjesh Narain, says he is unsure about the interest and concerns Fijians in New Zealand have on the issue. He says although Radio Tarana has no plan yet to promote the registration, Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum has told a news conference the government will engage New Zealand media soon.

"AIYAZ SAYED KHAIYUM: They will be using local media in New Zealand - Pacific Radio they mentioned, they will be using a couple of the Hindi speaking radios, and also the rural newspapers to promote the registration process."

Mr. Sayed Khaiyum says there has been widespread interest in the process, with more than 300 people expressing intent to register on the electoral website. He says although the registration teams will be based in Wellington and Auckland, there is flexibility to move around if there is higher demand.

"AIYAZ SAYED KHAIYUM: The High Commission has already identified pockets of Fijians who live in different areas, and we will be going out with them to register them. Of course the High Commission will be used also as a base."

He also says the New Zealand registration, which will cost around US$20,000, will lay the framework for the process to be repeated as far afield as the United Kingdom.

"AIYAZ SAYED KHAIYUM: New Zealand is being used more as a test run, and then of course we move on to Australia, we have some substantial numbers of Fijians living in the UK and the British Army. And also we have Fijians living on the west coast of North America."

The registration process will run for eight days until 31 October.

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