Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem should admit that his record as SOE has been deeply tainted by the Fiji Court of Appeal ruling against him in a case filed by the 2014 Electoral Commission.
The Commission had taken the SOE Saneem to court for his refusal to accept the Commission’s decision in 2014 disqualifying the candidature of Fiji First candidate Praveen Kumar and allowing that of Labour candidate Steven Singh who had been wrongly disqualified by him.
Mr Saneem was rebuked by the Court which declared that the Supervisor was “mandatorily required” to carry out the Commission’s ruling. “It was not open to him to question the legality and/or unconstitutionality” of the Commission’s ruling.
The Appeals Court found that the Supervisor of Elections had to “comply with all the decisions and directions given to him concerning the performance of his functions by the Fijian Electoral Commission”.
Saneem’s decision to disqualify Steven Singh despite admitting to the Labour Party that he had made a mistake, and allowing Kumar to contest, is evidence not only of insubordination, but also points to a bias towards the Fiji First Party.
It is well established that he was appointed to the position without possessing the requisite qualifications.
Saneem had not applied for the post but his name was submitted by the Elections Minister Sayed-Khaiyum. The Commission had instead asked that the post be readvertised. This was not done thus calling into question the propriety of his appointment.
The Opposition political parties have categorically stated, for good reasons they believe, that Saneem should have been asked to resign following the Appeals Court ruling to demonstrate adherence to the principles of impartiality and independence required of the Office of the Supervisor of Elections.
The fact that the Fiji First government took no action to terminate his appointment following the court ruling does little to inspire confidence in the integrity of the Fijian Elections Office.
We must also note the concern expressed in February 2018 by the visiting UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein that “basic structural flaws” brought into question whether the Fijian Elections Office was truly autonomous.
The FEO was one of three institutions that Mr Al Hussein expressed concerns about – the other two were the Constitutional Offices Commission and the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission.