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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Despite Outrage, Fiji Political Parties Start Registration Process
Parties challenge obligations under decree

By Maikeli Seru

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Jan. 21, 2013) – Two of the political parties, one of them the oldest in the country, have started ground work for registering for next year’s elections.

They are the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) and National Federation Party (NFP).

SDL, which was ousted from Government in 2006, said it would re-register to contest.

Party executive Ratu Jone Kubuabola said primary priority now was to change the SDL’s name from iTaukei to English and also have a multiracial mix.

NFP executives, meanwhile, held a meeting in Suva yesterday.

They have survived the test of political results good and bad over the decades, and plan to stand again.

Yesterday they resolved to seek Government help in a review of the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures Decree and also extension to the 28-day deadline to register.

SDL name change

Ratu Jone said because of the timeline in the Decree, the SDL would try and convene an assembly as soon as possible to discuss their name change.

"We will reregister and contest, but the time given in the Decree is very short," he said.

"We have to act fast and try and form an assembly where we discuss the name change and discuss the decree with our members. It is important that they fully understand the Decree."

Membership

Ratu Jone said the SDL would not have difficulty in the membership requirement – 5000 members from all four divisions of Fiji – 2000 from the Central Division, 1750 members from the Western Division, 1000 members from the Northern Division and 250 members from the Eastern Division.

He said their power base remained strong.

Affiliation to chiefs

Ratu Jone brushed aside reports that SDL could merge with a party to be formed by some hereditary chiefs.

"This is news. We have not received an invitation to join another party or organisation," he said.

Roko Tui Dreketi, Ro Teimumu Kepa, was reported to be earmarked for the lead role – Ratu Jone understands the Rewa paramount chief remains with SDL.

"The Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua has not met. We are trying to meet so that we can discuss how to meet the requirements in the decree," Ratu Jone said.

NFP concerns

National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae, meanwhile, said the Decree has stung the National Federation Party.

"The meeting was an internal meeting of the party. Among the important agendas was the party re-registration, but our concern was the extremely difficult requirement in the Decree," he said.

"We will try and comply. We will make every effort on the membership and the requirement but we will try and meet Government to bargain for a review of the Decree.

"From the meeting we resolved to be able to meet requirement, continue to ask Government for extension to the 28 days and also to remove the penalties and the restrictions.

Requirement, membership

"We checked around for election registration and membership and found out that nowhere in the world there is a fine $10,000 to $50,000 or five years jail for breaching the decree," Mr Rae said.

"In Australia with a population of 20 million people, political parties have a membership registration of 500 members and a registration fee of $500. In Fiji we have $5005 – one dollar for each member and the five original applicants’ 5000 membership. This is very difficult for us.

Office bearers, restrictions

"Nowhere in the world declares that office bearers and trade unionists resign to contest the election. This is a direct assault on freedom of association and collective bargaining."

The Government has said the decree incorporates existing Fijian laws with best practice from overseas to promote transparency, good governance and true democracy.

Mr Rae said NFP remained hopeful that the Government would review the Decree to allow more chances for political parties to contest the elections.

The Decree in its provisions wants NFP and other existing parties to reregister within 28 days from last Friday, with the Registrar of Political Parties.

An application to register must be signed by five party members and the party name must be in the English language.

Any registered political party must provide details of all assets and expenditure, including donations.

All political parties must maintain offices in each division in Fiji and maintain records of activities.

Fiji Sun
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