Media Release: Elections should be removed from AG’s portfolio: Draunidalo
21 July 2016
The NFP President, Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo has today called on the Minister for Elections to resign his Elections portfolio for questioning the independence and neutrality of the Electoral Commission.
This is through his utterances recently in a newspaper report (Fiji Sun, 16 July 2016) where he is purported to have said “he had left the Commission to be run independently, but had raised concerns with Mr Young on the perception that the chair had sought legal advice from an outside source at a fee of $25,000.”
“The Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party, Mr Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum made serious and what appears to be defamatory remarks against the Electoral Commission Chairperson”.
“The Minister was raising his concerns both as Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of Fiji First, about Mr Young’s decision to outsource legal representation and he further stated in that article that with his other hat as Minister for Economy – his Ministry – will be investigating procedures of the Electoral Commission”, said the NFP President.
“The first issue is that the Minister for Elections and Attorney General is also the General Secretary of a Political Party, the Fiji First Party, and appears to be trying to influence the Electoral Commission to suit his political agenda.
He should not be trying to do that and not be seen to be trying to interfere or attempt to interfere with the Constitutional independence of the Electoral Commission and as General Secretary of the Fiji First Party, he also has a myriad of other hats that he wears in which to wield his control”, added Draunidalo.
“Secondly, it appears that the Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary for the Fiji First Party is threatening and intimidating the Electoral Commission to seek legal advice that may come from his Office instead of an independent external source.
That the Electoral Commission should not be restricted to seeking legal advice from the Solicitor General who reports to the Attorney General, the Minister for Elections and the General Secretary for the Fiji First Party because in the case that the Electoral Commission brought against the Supervisor of Elections on 24 August 2014 (Civil Action No HBC 240 of 2014 – Electoral Commission v The Supervisor of Elections), the Solicitor General represented the defendant the Supervisor of Elections” highlighted Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo.
“The third issue, is that this case of the Electoral Commission against the Supervisor of Elections is currently on appeal and as the chief legal advisor to Government, he should be the first to uphold these basic legal principles. The independent courts are above him as independent arbiters and he should respect that” adds the NFP President.
“Fourthly, the Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party insinuates that there is some kind of perception that the Commission is not independent because of a commercial, arms length relationship that the Electoral Commissioner may have with independent, third party Counsel.
The Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party should himself declare whether there is any difference in that situation to his relationship with Minter Ellison who he has been commissioned to do work in Fiji from as far back as 2008 until very recently with the Companies Act- and that Act has come back to Parliament for very many amendments after taxpayers money was used to pay for Minter Ellison.”
“Fifthly, the Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party is undermining the role of the Constitutional Offices Commission who recommends appointments to the President for the Electoral Commission and Supervisor of Elections among others, but given that the Minister for Elections, Attorney General and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party is also a member of the Constitutional Offices Commission as Attorney General, any right thinking person can now predict what the end-game may be for Mr Young” said Hon Roko Tupou Draunidalo.
The NFP President said that too much power concentrated in any individual is always open to abuse, unethical and provides a platform for corruption, tyranny and incompetence. She called on the Prime Minister to remove this portfolio from the myriad of other spheres of control of the Minister for Elections, Attorney General, Minister for Economy and General Secretary of the Fiji First Party.
Hon Draunidalo also called on the Prime Minister to draw on the 2014 Annual Report of the Electoral Commission where it said on page 4 “that its work was affected by it not having the services of an independent legal advisor.”