FIJI'S political parties met members of the Pacific Island Forum's Ministerial Contact Group last week to present their views on pertinent national issues, in particular the upcoming general elections.
The submissions were presented to the MCG comprising Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, chair of the MCG Rimbink Pato, PNG Foreign Minister Tuisugaletaua Aliimalemanu Sofara Aveau, Minister for Communication and Information Technology of Samoa Taukelina Finikaso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour of Tuvalu Taukelina Finikaso, and deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Vanuatu Nipake Edward Natapei.
Below are excerpts from submissions by two political parties — the Fiji Labour Party and the National Federation Party.
FLP was represented by leader Mahendra Chaudhry and president Lavinia Padarath. The NFP was represented by president Raman Pratap Singh and senior member Tupou Draunidalo.
The PDP submission was still forthcoming when this edition went to press, while attempts to obtain the SODELPA's submission were unsuccessful.
* Electoral Commission to fully take charge of the electoral process immediately;
* The Attorney-General was very much in control of the electoral process and called for the immediate transfer of the electoral process to the Electoral Commission;
* Appointment of an independent elections oversight mechanism has been only partially done with the appointment of an Electoral Commission without an independent Supervisor of Elections and without the promulgation of the requisite electoral legislation;
* Free and fair participation by political parties in the electoral process — this is not possible in light of the Political Parties Decree which restricts and restrains political parties from operating without State interference and control;
* Freedom of expression, association and assembly in the lead-up to the elections and beyond — these freedoms remain severely restricted under the decrees which curtail, suspend or remove them altogether.
* NFP is concerned that government's promise that elections will be free, fair and credible are purely rhetorical statements designed to hoodwink the people;
* Apart from registration of voters, publication of hard copies of electoral rolls and distribution of a set of rolls to each of the four registered political parties and appointment of the Electoral Commission, there are no positive signs of the elections being conducted in an atmosphere of complete freedom accorded to all political parties;
* NFP has welcomed the appointment of the Electoral Commission as a positive step because the chairperson and members of the commission are men and women of credibility;
* The party is concerned about the delay in the promulgation of the electoral regulations, although it has now been announced that the regulations will be gazetted by the end of the month;
* With elections drawing closer, NFP suggests that writs for elections be issued 44 days before the elections;
* The NFP calls upon the Electoral Commission for political parties to be given a copy of the draft regulations to study and make recommendations to the commission;
* The Political Parties Decree 2013 erodes the rights of individuals and puts paid to the principle of free, fair and credible elections;
* The decree outlaws trade unionists from becoming members, holding positions, supporting or even speaking at political party gatherings and meeting and the Electoral Commission should change the decree.