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Labour protests

Nasik Swami
Thursday, May 15, 2014

THE Fiji Labour Party has registered a protest to President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, calling on Elections Minister and A-G Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to step down from his post immediately.

In the letter of protest, dated May 12, 2014, party leader Mahendra Chaudhry claimed the electoral process for September 17 election would be tainted should Mr Sayed-Khaiyum continue to retain ministerial oversight now that he was the proposed general secretary for the proposed Fiji First organisation.

"The Elections Office and the Electoral Commission should be absolutely independent of any ministerial control, interference or influence," Chaudhry said.

In the protest, the former prime minister requested Ratu Epeli to intervene and exercise his powers in the public interest to ensure that justice was served and the election was conducted in a transparent, free, fair and credible manner.

"We trust you will do the right thing by the people of Fiji. Your excellency, the ordinary observer perceives this as a blatant case of abuse of authority and office.

"It is not consistent with past practice. In the past, the Electoral Commission was responsible directly to Parliament through the Office of the President."

Chaudhry believes it is essential in the interest of transparency and accountability in matters of governance that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum steps aside.

"However, there may be serious consequences if he is not removed. It will certainly reflect on the credibility of the elections. We feel strongly about the conflict of interest inherent in the case hence our writing to you to register our protest."

He said the party intended to take the issue further with the international community.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum told this newspaper the law remained clear on the duties and status of the Electoral Commission and the Supervisor of Elections.

"The law is quite clear, the elections commission is independent, the Supervisor of Elections is independent, and you have the Electoral Decree, it is very clear and very simple.

"Like I said, the comments made by these people are not worth responding to," he said.

Acting official secretary at the Office of the President Alena Mataitoga yesterday said she was not aware of the written protest as the official secretary Pene Baleinabuli was out of the country with Ratu Epeli.

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