Issue No: 951 18 July 2001
A team of 54 observers from international organizations will be observing the August elections in Fiji.
The media reports that the team comprises 40 United Nations members, 12 from the Commonwealth of Nations and 2 from the European Union. The regime's foreign affairs minister stated: "They will be here to ensure that the election is clean and fair".
Allegations of the regime's intention to rig the elections have been widespread. Even one Qarase regime minister is reported to have stated that he was concerned with the delay in the counting of the votes after polling ended. There is a lag of over 40 hours between the end of polling and the start of counting. (see http://www.pcgov.org.fj/hot_press/no815)
The elections office has reiterated its independence and has assured the citizens of Fiji of free and fair elections.
But the assurances do not measure to the evidences on the ground. It has been revealed that the authorities are refusing to register Fiji citizens studying or staying abroad temporarily. (see http://www.pcgov.org.fj/hot_press/no937.htm ). It has also been reported that nomination forms are still not present with the returning officers.
The Elections Office is headed by a highly professional and dedicated lawyer, Walter Rigamoto. The nation has confidence in Rigamoto's ability and dedication to ensuring a free and fair election. But actual polling work is conducted by regime's officials over which Rigamoto does not have any direct control. Over the year, the Qarase regime has placed its own people in strategic positions. These people will be at the forefront of the polling in August.
Chaudhry calls for respect of election results Issue No: 953 19 July 2001
Elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has called on the people of Fiji to accept the results of the August elections.
Chaudhry was responding to a Daily Post article yesterday which stated that the military will not accept a victory for Chaudhry. The Post article was based on an affidavit sworn by the military commander Com. Frank Bainimarama that the military will not let Fiji "revert to the pre-19 May 2000 status". The affidavit was submitted to support the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo's dismissal of the elected Prime Minister.
Chaudhry condemned the AFP wired article saying it was "sheer mischief making by the agency Agence France Press." He said that the AFP article had taken the extract from Army Commander Frank Bainimarama's affidavit out of context to give it a completely different meaning.
"Nowhere does the Commander say in this quote that he will not have me back as Prime Minister if re-elected", Chaudhry said.
The Commander's affidavit was in response to the situation after May 19. It does not refer to the August elections.
"As far as I am concerned the military has given its assurance that it will stand by the constitution and we accept that."
Mr Chaudhry condemned the AFP article as irresponsible journalism tantamount to voter intimidation.
"The people of Fiji are entitled to elect a government of their choice without any form of intimidation", he said.
Accept the Election Result, says Commonwealth Envoy Issue No: 955 19 July 2001
The Commonwealth Secretary General's Special Envoy to Fiji, Justice Pius Langa, urged politicians and political parties to accept the August election result. While making a statement on Fiji TV, Justice Langa emphasised that democracy will only prevail if those losing the election accepted it.
He further suggested that all parties should be mindful of democracy, national unity and reconciliation in order to bring Fiji back to constitutional rule. Commitment to accept the election result and stick to the democratic rule prior to the election should be the order of the day, he said. There should not be any room for unconstitutional overthrow of the elected government if Fiji has to progress. Commitment to reconciliation and constitutional rule will bring "victory for democracy" in Fiji.
This is Justice Langa's fifth visit to Fiji since his appointment as Special Envoy following the political crisis of May 2000. Justice Langa was appointed to expedite Fiji's return to constitutional rule following Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth. He leaves the country tomorrow.