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Poll issue in court

Shalveen Chand
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE High Court in Suva will give a ruling on notice regarding an application to strike out a motion by National Federation Party candidate Makereta Waqavonovono, who wants to contest the election and is seeking constitutional redress.

According to the motion filed by Ms Waqavonovono, she believes she is eligible to stand as a candidate for the NFP in the general election in September but may be disqualified under Section 23 of the Electoral Decree 2014.

Section 23(4)(c) of the Electoral Decree states a person is eligible to be nominated as a candidate for election to parliament only if the person is ordinarily resident in Fiji for at least two years immediately before being nominated.

Ms Waqavovono was a senior adviser in the Solomon Islands Public Solicitor's office in 2012, and in 2013, she was in Australia doing her Masters in Law.

According to Ms Waqavonovono's motion, this section in the Decree violates her constitutional rights provided in Section 23(2), Section 23(3)(c) and Section 26 of the 2013 Constitution.

In court, Acting Solicitor-General Sharvada Nand Sharma said there was an issue of jurisdiction. He said the court had no jurisdiction to make a ruling on the matter according to the Constitution.

He said the motion brought before the court was also hypothetical as the decision on whether Ms Waqavonovono would be allowed to contest was for the Supervisor of Elections and would have to be made after August 18.

Mr Sharma said the Fijian Electoral Commission should not even be a defendant because they do not play any role in the approving of candidates but deal with objections.

He said he was representing the Supervisor of Elections and the Attorney-General.

Ms Waqavonovono's lawyer Tupou Draunidalo told the court that it had jurisdiction under the Administration of Justice Decree to hear the case. She said what they wanted was clarification of this matter, which according to the motion was very simple.

Justice Kamlesh Kumar said he was allowing the plaintiff until yesterday to file submissions on why the matter should not be struck out, and a reply by midday today if needed by Mr Sharma.

He said he would give a ruling on notice thereafter.

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