|Saneem: outright rejection|
The Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, has rejected all six complaints Frank Bainimarama's Party contravened the law.
Three complaints were filed by Tupeni Baba from the SODELPA Party. Baba’s complaints were that:
1. Fiji First office party holder, Bijai Prasad, had lied over not having a conviction.
Saneem’s response: The conviction is irrelevant and by raising it, Dr Baba is in breach of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
2. Fiji First had campaigned before being registered
Saneem’s response: Dr Baba has not provided particulars to substantiate the claims and the grounds raised by Dr Baba did not qualify under the law
3. Fiji First had wrongly used the Fiji flag and its name resembled that of another party, Fiji 1st.
Saneem’s response: There is no evidence the party’s registration had ever been approved.
A complaint made by Anit Singh was also dismissed because Singh had not signed his letter.
Saneem also dismissed a complaint by Nazia Khan Rauf objecting to the use of the Fiji flag by Fiji First in its logo, saying no law prohibits the use of the flag - and in any case Fiji First was using a variant of the flag.
UFDF’s spokesperson Mick Beddoes also made complaints, but Saneem said Beddoes had 'misconceived' certain facts and not signed his letter of objections.
Saneem referred to Fiji First’s response which described Beddoes allegations and complaints as being 'without merit and made in desperation'.
Beddoes sent a second letter in response to Saneem as below.
June 1 2014
The Registrar of Political Parties
Your findings against my objections
Dated May 30th 2014
I refer to your emailed decision regarding the registration of Fiji First and the grounds on which you made your ruling against those objecting. My response is outlined as follows:-
1. No of Complaints
Please read my 2nd document sent to you again and you will note that it is headed Supplementary Information to be added to my only and signed objection lodged at your office and stamped, on Saturday 24th 12.39pm.
It was not a 2nd complaint that required my signature; it was information to be added to the only SIGNED objection that I lodged at your office.
Therefore your reference to the supplementary information being an unsigned letter is incorrect and your conclusion that it failed to meet the particulars of Sec 9 (3) is also incorrect.
My objections were also sent to you via your personal email and the website email
2. Complaints to the Police & MIDA
It is clear from your response to this that you never had any intention of picking up the phone and enquiring with the Police or MIDA to firstly ascertain if indeed I had lodged complaints as I have claimed and to enquire about its progress or otherwise.
The fact that your other government agencies such as the Police and MIDA are either deliberately dragging their feet or inefficient is not the fault or concern of the complainant, but rather a reflection of the level of incompetence or bias of those organizations charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and ensuring a fair and balanced Media.
In addition, you are the registrar of political parties, not me, so it’s your job to investigate my claims to determine if they are factual and a little effort on your part would have resulted in you being able to conclude that the complaints I referred to are factual and investigations stalled or otherwise are underway.
3. Fiji First 2006 elections
I concede [as only democratic law abiding citizens do] that there was a typing error in the date of
the elections I stated. It should have been 2001 not 2006 and the Fiji 1st party contested these
elections under its original name The Girmit Heritage Party. This does not alter the fact that all references to the Fiji 1st party name change, including the gazette date as well as minutes and correspondence involving two current Fiji First officials are all true and do point to the existence of Fiji 1st as a political party.
4. Illegal use of the Fiji Coat of Arms
You totally ignored my objections to the wrongful use of the Fiji coat of arms? Why, I also provided you details of the Prohibition of the use of Coat of Arms legislation. You made no comment or ruling on this which goes to my point that you have relied totally on the response of the applicant Fiji First for your grounds of rejection rather than taking responsibility and conducting your own investigation.
5. False Declaration of Bajaj Prasad
Although this was another objection of mine, you also failed to address this in your response to me, so I will assume that the response and decision you gave to Dr Tupeni Baba who also raised this point would be your response to my objection had you given one.
You state in your decision that quote ‘Mr Bajaj Prasad was convicted in 1982 and in accordance with the Rehabilitation of Offenders (irrelevant Convictions) Act 1997, the said conviction is no longer relevant. Secondly Mr Prasad had, since the matter was raised, resigned from being the Vice President of the applicant.
Having pursued the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1997, I am bound not to discriminate Mr Prasad on the basis of his irrelevant conviction. I accept he has resigned from the applicant as well and in light of the law, this objection is also dismissed’ Mr Baba, in raising the irrelevant conviction is in contravention of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1997’ unquote
I put it to you Mr Registrar of political parties that you have erred in your decision on this particular point for the following reason:-
The breach I refer to is not about the previous conviction, jail time, record, duration of imprisonment or the time lapse since the conviction of Mr Bijay Prasad. The breach of the decree is all about his ‘false declaration’ plain and simple.
But given that you are obviously unfamiliar with your government’s own decrees allow me to restate it for the record.
Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Decree 2013 (Decree No 4 of 2013) says and I quote:
Sec 27 (1) A person who-
(a) Fails to furnish particulars or information required to be furnished by a political party or by him or her un this decree
(b) Makes a statement which he or she knows to be false or which he or she has no reason to believe to be true ; or
(c) Recklessly makes a false statement under this decree, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years or to both
(2) Where a political party commits an offence under this decree, every office holder of the political party shall also be deemed to have committed the offence. Unquote:
I am not a lawyer but I do understand simple English and according to Sec 27 (1) (b) and (c) Mr Bijay Prasad has committed an offence, plain and simple and that’s what you are supposed to make a determination on, nothing else.
Mr Bajaj Prasad is not guilty of an offence involving his previous conviction; he is guilty of knowingly making a false statement to the question of a previous conviction.
The fact that he resigned after the matter was raised is irrelevant and does not absolve him from having committed the offence by knowingly or recklessly making the false statement about a previous conviction at the time of ‘lodging’ of the Fiji First application to register.
It has not escaped my notice and I am sure the country’s that you seemed to have based your entire grounds of dismissal of our objections on the applicant’s Fiji First’s response.
I am sure, the fact that the Fiji First official, [the person] General Secretary Mr A. Khaiyum who just happens to be the AG, Minister for Justice and a few others as well as Minister of Elections and therefore your boss, has nothing to do with your determination in this matter, even though as the Minister responsible for elections [the person] Mr Khaiyum and his Boss and your grand Boso [the other person] Frank Bainimarama both have a vested interest in the outcome of this application and your decision.
For the future, I would like my response to you today to be properly recorded and filed so that in the event that an independent Judicial accounting of the conduct of the 2014 Election process and procedures is undertaken by the new democratic government of Fiji, our views are clearly recorded.
Millis M Beddoes