Claims of alleged breach

Attorney General and FijiFirst Secretary general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during the rally at Votualevu Public School last night. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

THREE political parties say they are concerned and disappointed that students were used last Friday to take home news of a FijiFirst party rally at Votualevu Public School in Nadi.

Social Democratic Liberal Party leader and former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka called on the Supervisor of Elections to look into the issue as an alleged breach of ethics and the Code of Conduct of Political Parties.

He said as the incumbent Government in power, the FijiFirst party had a special responsibility not to misuse its control over government resources, over schools, over students and over the population in their political campaign.

He was responding to reports that the manager of the school had issued a newsletter to students last Friday about a FijiFirst party rally and asked them to take it home to their parents. The manager had signed off on behalf of the FijiFirst party.

Questions regarding the concerns sent to Attorney-General and Education Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who is also secretary of FijiFirst party, and Education Ministry permanent secretary Alison Burchell on Saturday, October 13, and again yesterday, remain unanswered.

Mr Rabuka said he was concerned that political parties were using school students in campaigning efforts.

“All right-thinking voters will decry this misuse of power, where innocent children are being used to take home political paraphernalia to their parents by a school manager,” he said.

“I call on the Supervisor of Elections to look into this issue as an alleged breach of ethics and the Code of Conduct of Political Parties. As national leaders, it is our duty to recognise the politics of division and desperation on display, and to call on authorities concerned to do their duty without fear and without favour.”

National Federation Party leader professor Biman Prasad said the act was “politicisation of the worst type”.

“It is despicable that primary school children were used by the FijiFirst party to distribute meeting notices by the school manager who signed the notice on behalf of FijiFirst,” he said.

“If school resources were used to print the notices then this is gross abuse of taxpayers’ funds and we call upon the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections to investigate abuse of public funds.”

Prof Prasad said NFP’s representatives in Nadi had received complaints from several parents who were concerned that their children were being used to convey political messages without their consent.

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry said using schoolchildren was improper and an abuse of authority.

“And under no circumstance can schools be used for campaigning or for the display of political material,” he said.

“We call on the Multinational Observer Group to take serious note of this.”

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