Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

New Fiji Political Party Decree ‘Unreasonable’: SDL Leader
Tupeni Baba denounces updated rules for party registration

By Mereani Gonedua

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 17, 2013) – Fiji’s Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party says that some requirements in the new Political Party Registration Decree 2013 are vindictive and unreasonable.

SDL senior executive Dr. Tupeni Baba said they expected government to be reasonable in setting the requirements for political parties and at a difficult time like this they should be more facilitative and helpful.

Baba said government has imposed a very unrealistic registration fee of FJ$5005 per party, which is unprecedented as this is to come out of the voluntary contributions of ordinary people within a short period of 28 days and is out of line with the depressed economic conditions of the country.

The former deputy Prime Minister said the 5,000 membership needed for a party is also a very tough requirement as up to now parties have not been allowed to meet freely let alone having these meetings throughout the country.

He said the requirement for trade union officials to form new parties in particular is restrictive particularly at this time and government could be more facilitative and recognize the right of workers to set up political parties to promote and safeguard their interests.

He also said SDL finds it curious that the re-registration of existing parties have to be in English beside their symbols and they take this to mean that a Fijian name like ‘Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua’ (SDL) will not meet the requirement.

He added that Fijian is one of the three official languages of Fiji and is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the people and hopes that this requirement is not an error on the part of government as it really traverses beyond the bounds of common sense.

Meanwhile Attorney General and Minister for Election Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said if political parties are truly applicable to the whole of the country, then they must have people supporting them nationwide, and it would not be a problem to register 5,000 people.

Sayed-Khaiyum said if there was no divisional demarcation then they would be able to get this number in Suva alone.

He also said trade unionists are not restricted to contest elections but they have to resign from their post in order to contest.

[PIR editor’s note: Baba joins other political leaders who have expressed concerns and criticism over the decree. Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry claims it is an attempt to stifle any effective opposition leading up to the 2014 elections. Attar Singh, the general secretary of the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Unions, alleges the true purpose of the decree is to effectively eliminate all existing political parties. General Secretary for the National Federation Party Pramod Rae claims that complete party compliance with the decree's requirements is unlikely, citing particularly the cost of opening party offices in each division. Meanwhile, Sayed-Khaiyum has reminded trade union leaders that, in the event that current Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama intended to contest the elections, he would be required to give up his military post.]

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