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Party wary of choice

Nasik Swami
Saturday, April 05, 2014

AS Fiji prepares for the general election on September 17, SODELPA believes new Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem will not be able to handle the complicated operational and logistical requirements to ensure a free-flowing electoral process.

Party general secretary Pio Tabaiwalu claimed Mr Saneem lacked the organisational expertise to handle these demanding administrative details.

"Some figures that have been mentioned include 3000 polling stations and a manpower complement of some 14,000 people to ensure the election is completed in one day," he said.

Mr Tabaiwalu said it was surprising that Mr Saneem's appointment had met the approval of the chairman and members of the Electoral Commission.

Mr Tabaiwalu said the party was also disappointed by the statements of acceptance issued by the consultants from Australia, the European Union and New Zealand.

"Would these learned consultants accept with equanimity the appointment of such a junior person to administer important elections in their own countries, given the overwhelming importance of these elections to every Fijian?"

But independent candidate Roshika Deo said she didn't think Mr Saneem's age was an issue.

"I think it's great that young people are visible in public spaces and young people are taking these roles."

When questioned in a press conference this week on the views political parties had regarding Mr Saneem's appointment, Electoral Commission chairman Chen Bunn Young said the appointee was the right choice.

Mr Young had said the commission reviewed the 13 applications for the position and majority of the applicants did not have the necessary qualifications.

"It was obviously one of the crucial points that had to be taken into consideration," he said.

He said the commission envisaged that the polling date was going to be sometime in September.

"So if we had to find a suitable candidate, say from overseas, I think the problem was, as we have accounted ourselves when we were interviewing certain people for certain jobs, many of them can't start until a month or two after they have been given their appointment letter.

"So if you look at the logistics of it, we would have a Supervisor of Elections who came into Fiji with adjustments to culture and surroundings, we would have basically lost two or three months.

"At the end of the day, Mr Saneem's name was put forward to us and as you all know, he had the advantage of continuity, know how the systems work and we have worked with him over a couple of months."

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