Of the 1050 voter registration clerks recruited by the interim attorney general’s office, only about 160 or 15% are from the minority Indo-Fijian and other communities …a gross under representation of these communities which comprise almost 42% of Fiji’s population.
For obvious reasons, it is extremely important to maintain racial parity when recruiting personnel for such assignments.
This is a serious issue which must be addressed and rectified before the registration proper can get underway.
We ask the attorney general to explain this blatant discrepancy and call on the interim regime to set matters right.
In the 2001 and 2006 general elections hundreds of Indo-Fijian voters were turned away from polling stations because their names did not appear on the electoral rolls even though they had registered and held the official registration slips. These voters were effectively disenfranchised through no fault of their own.
The European Union Election Observation Mission in 2006 drew attention to the numerous instances of misspelling of voters’ names, wrong constituency allocations and the failure to register a greater number of voters. “As a result of these errors, a number of voters were deprived of their right to vote in a fifth of the polling stations observed,” it noted in its final report.
Likewise, the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into the 2006 general elections was highly critical of the racial disparity in the entire elections administration process with a dominance of ethnic Fijians at all levels. It implies “at the least, an unintentional bias”, the inquiry said. It noted that of the 4248 enumerators enlisted, only 407 were Indo-Fijians and 155 from other minority communities.
In the past, up to the 1999 general elections, the practice was for school teachers and other civil servants to be appointed enumerators. Since 2001, however, enumerators have been picked on an ad hoc basis, many of them barely out of school. This is reflected in the numerous mistakes which have surfaced in the compilation of electoral rolls in the past two general elections.
Voter registration is a responsible exercise and it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure that those picked for the task are competent, mature citizens.
We have already drawn attention to the fact that the entire process is being undertaken in contravention of the Electoral Act and Regulations and is, therefore, open to legal challenge.