Posts tagged Fiji Attorney-General

FIJIAN ATTORNEY GENERAL BRIEFS INDIAN ELECTORAL COMMISSION ON 2014 ELECTION

The Attorney-General briefed the Indian Electoral Commissioners, Mr. V S Sampath (Chief Commissioner), Mr. Harishankar Brahma and Mr. Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi and their staff on the preparations for the 2014 general election, in a meeting with the Indian Electoral Commission, on 31 January 2014, in New Delhi India.

“Holding elections that are free, fair and credible, based on a fair electoral system is the absolute priority of the Bainimarama Government, and the Indian Government including the Indian Electoral Commission has shown a deep level of understanding and support for this process. Accordingly we look forward to close cooperation between the Indian Electoral Commission and the Fijian Elections Office and Fijian Electoral Commission”.

“In fact the Indian Electoral Commission has agreed to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Electoral Commissions, to enable flow of information, technical assistance and personnel between the two agencies”, said the Attorney General.

“We had very constructive exchange of information with the Indian Electoral commissioners and discussed a wide range of issues including the elections preparations, the role of the Fijian Electoral Commission and how for the first time Fiji will have one day polling”, the Attorney-General said.

“The Indian Electoral Commissioners commended the appointment of the independent Fijian Electoral Commission, saying that it signifies the independence and credibility of the election process,” said the Attorney-General.

The Attorney General said “To get such endorsement and pledge of assistance and cooperation by the Electoral Commission of the world’s largest democracy demonstrates confidence in the processes and work done so far in the preparations for the elections by the Bainimarama Government.”

The Minister and his delegation received a demonstration on the electronic voting system that has been widely and successfully used in the Indian elections.

The Indian Electoral Commission was also interested in the Fijian Registration of Political Parties Decree and asked the Attorney General for a copy of it.

GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCES AMNESTY TO ENOURAGE LATE REGISTRATION OF BIRTHS

The Bainimarama Government has announced an amnesty for people who have not registered their births with the waiver of the standard fee for late registration.

A late registration is any registration made more than twelve months after birth.

The waiver of the $11.50 fee comes into force today and will last until March 14th.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, urged Fijians to take advantage of this amnesty to register themselves and their children if they have not already done so.

“It is important that everyone has an identity and a birth certificate is the ultimate proof of identity. Without one, you cannot access many basic services, such as social welfare, education, health care and registering to vote,” he said.

The Attorney-General said that past Governments did not make enough of an effort to encourage registrations so now there are a significant number of Fijians who do not have birth certificates, especially in rural and maritime communities.

“The Bainimarama Government is determined to provide everyone the opportunity to do what should have been done all along,” he said.

The Government’s efforts so far have thrown up startling instances of people in isolated areas living most of their lives without a registered identity.

The Attorney-General cited the example of a seventy-nine-year-old woman living on Gau Island who was only recently registered by a Government team.

The Attorney-General also explained that it was Government’s responsibility to uphold the integrity of national identity by preventing people from registering under a false name and committing identity theft.

This means that those going to register must have an informant who is a next of kin and produce a Notification of Birth, which would have been issued by the hospital or health center where they were born.

They must also present a passport size photo and another form of identification, as well as provide a declaration signed in the presence of a Justice of the Peace, which the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office will verify before registration is completed.

The announcement of amnesty comes as a team from the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office departs for Rabi and Kioa Island to encourage registrations of unrecorded births and deaths.

The Attorney-General said that this would give Fijians living on these islands an opportunity to obtain a birth certificate, now free of charge, without having to travel to the BDM Office in Labasa.

The Attorney-General also encouraged families to come forward to report the deaths of any family members for whom death certificates had never been issued.

A team from the Elections Office will join the tour to display the National Register of Voters and to encourage new voter registrations.

Another BDM team is currently on a tour of the Lau Group with the Commissioner Eastern.

The 10-day tour will visit the following locations:

16/01         Buakonikai
17/01         Tabiang
18/01        Uma
19-23/01 Nuku
24/01       Kioa Island

The Ministry of Justice has also announced extended opening hours for the Births, Deaths and Marriages Offices in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa. These offices will now be open on Saturday as well.

MEMBERS OF ELECTORAL COMMISSION ANNOUNCED

The members of the Electoral Commission that will supervise the 2014 general election have been announced.

The Commission is made up of seven prominent citizens from various walks of life headed by its Chair, leading legal practitioner Chen Bunn Young, who’s a former President of the Fiji Law Society.

The other members are academic Professor Vijay Naidu of USP, the tourism industry leader and marketing expert, James Sowane, accountant and financial advisor Jenny Seeto, the filmmaker and media specialist, Larry Thomas, electoral expert and priest, Father David Arms, and the educationalist and civil society leader, Alisi Daurewa.

The Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, said each member of the Commission brings a unique perspective and set of skills to the task of supervising the first genuine democratic election in Fiji’s history.

“All of these outstanding individuals are credible, apolitical and together, will bring integrity to the Commission’s work. They will also make their individual contributions, whether it’s high- level legal expertise in the case of Chen Bunn Young, marketing expertise in the case of James Sowane, financial expertise in the case of Jenny Seeto, existing electoral expertise in the case of Father Arms, communications expertise in the case of Larry Thomas and the broad educational a social expertise of Professor Naidu and Alisi Daurewa”.

“I want to thank them all for accepting their roles on the Commission, which is a vital component of the Bainimarama Government’s plan to hold a free and fair election to the very highest international standards”, he said.

Under the terms of the 2013 Constitution, the Electoral Commission is responsible for the registration of voters and the conduct of free and fair elections.

It is also responsible for voter education, the registration of candidates for election, the settlement of electoral disputes and monitoring and enforcing compliance with any written law governing elections and political parties.

Under the Constitution, the Chair of the Commission needs to either be a judge or a legal practitioner who is able to become a judge, a provision fulfilled by Chen Bunn Young, a senior Lautoka- based solicitor and barrister.

In a related development, the Elections Office has announced that it will soon be seeking applications for 34 key posts in the Office. Within those categories are a total of 230 positions. They include the Deputy Supervisor of Elections, the Director of Electoral Procedures, the Director of Corporate Services and the Director of Communications.

Another 160 staff will be recruited in a second phase later in the year and an additional 14,000 throughout Fiji for the day of the election itself.

STATEMENT BY THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR ELECTIONS, AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM MORE FIJIANS REGISTERED TO VOTE – PROCESS DESIGNED TO AVOID IRREGULARITIES OF PAST ELECTIONS

More Fijians are registered to vote now than at any time in the history of our nation, thanks to the efforts of the Elections Office and the use of the new electronic voter registration system.

As of the end of November, more than 540,000 of Fijians have registered to vote in next year’s election.

This registration process is more successful, transparent and precise than any before. It is designed to avoid the anomalies and fraud that took place in past elections.

It is a national issue of interest to all Fijians, regardless of individual political preferences.

Therefore, it is unfortunate that some politicians are attempting to manipulate voter registration into a political issue and undermine the process by using false and outdated numbers to get attention for themselves.

In addition, any calculation of the exact number of Fijians who have not yet registered to vote is inaccurate—at best.

The voter registration effort that is being conducted throughout Fiji and including the tens of thousands of Fijians living overseas is an ongoing outreach program that has received positive feedback from Fijians, our development partners and international commentators.

The results so far–the National Register of Voters—is available to everyone.  Fijians can verify their information online as well.

Next year, the elections office plans another phase of voter registration to sign up all eligible Fijians who want to vote, including those who have only recently turned 18.

FIJI WITHDRAWS FROM “RUSHED” TRADE TALKS

Fiji has withdrawn from the Pacific ACP (PACP) meeting in Solomon Islands organised by the Forum Secretariat “as a matter of principle.”

The current meeting, meant to prepare PACP trade ministers for discussions with the European Union (EU) later in the week,  was called by the Forum Secretariat before a full meeting of  the PACP was allowed to take place, in direct contravention to the path agreed to by the member states.

Only 6 of 14 PACP trade ministers were able to attend on such short notice.

In a very strong statement to his fellow PACP trade ministers who were present today, Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that PACP countries need to meet without the EU’s presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.

“The Pacific Trade Ministers who were present in Brussels [in October] had decided and agreed to meet separately in Fiji, not just for one day but for the necessary period required to resolve and strategise on the issues pertaining to the comprehensive EPA, vis-à-vis the outstanding and contentious issues,” he said.

The Attorney-General said that such a meeting would also allow PACP states to address the withdrawal of PNG from the negotiations in Brussels, a crucially important issue surrounding the EPA negotiations.

The AG said that by calling “rushed” trade talks with the EU before this meeting was allowed to take place, the Forum Secretariat clearly has not fulfilled its responsibility to action the decisions of the Ministers and the wishes of the member states.

“The Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they should not dictate directions to the members but provide technical advice and further our position,” he said.

The Attorney-General told his fellow ministers that the EPA was not something to play with or decide on the trot.

“The reality is that the Comprehensive EPA in its current form has enormous ramifications on our policy space, sovereignty and development, “ he said.

“It also constraints our ability to deliver basic socio-economic rights to our citizens.  The Fijian Constitution, assented to by the President on 6 September 2013, provides for unprecedented socio-economic rights, including the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation. We cannot let any trade agreement prevent Fiji from providing these basic necessities to our citizens,” he said.

He stated that only as a united region can the Pacific achieve a better agreement that provides markets and at the same time ensures the sustainability of vital resources for the betterment of all Pacific Islanders.

He urged fellow PACP countries not to be pressured by the EU into finalising a deal or into moving into an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long term impacts.

“In this regard, we understand the urgency of Solomon Islands, who are perhaps being pushed into acceding to the Interim EPA to secure market access of their precious fisheries resources,” he said.

The Attorney-General said that they had reached a stage in the negotiations where the PACP grouping needs the political will from the highest level.

“The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in the PACP region and the EPA negotiations.  The PACP Leaders need to meet and provide the mandate to us Ministers and Officials on the way in which the EPA needs to be progressed,” he said.

At the meeting today, the AG repeated Fiji’s invitation to host a full PACP meeting at either the Leaders or Ministerial level.

He concluded his remarks by saying that Fiji’s decision to withdraw from the meeting does not mean that it is abandoning its regional neighbours.

“We are and have been from the start, a strong advocate of regional solidarity, which, perhaps has been to the chagrin of the Forum Secretariat and our detractors,” he said.

“We are committed to negotiating a Comprehensive EPA, but one that is favourable to all parties, has development at its core and which is for the benefit for all our citizens,” he said.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Remarks at the Special Pacific ACP (PACP) Ministerial Meeting in Solomon Islands

Bula Vinaka and very good morning

Good to see some of you again, here this morning. It is far cry from the freezing temperatures of Brussels.

We have been called here, firstly, to meet amongst ourselves with the view to meet the European Trade Commissioner later in the week.

I am deeply concerned in the manner in which the meeting this morning and the subsequent planned meeting with the trade commissioner has been organised.

The Pacific Trade Ministers who were present in Brussels had decided and agreed to meet separately in Fiji, not just for one day but for the necessary period required to resolve and strategise on the issues pertaining to the comprehensive EPA, vis-à-vis the outstanding and contentious issues.

This agreed meeting, proposed to be held in Fiji, was also important for us to address the withdrawal of PNG from the negotiations in Brussels.

The PACP Ministers agreed to the meeting in Fiji, to re-group and re-strategise and form a united approach to take us forward in the EPA negotiations.

The reality is that the Comprehensive EPA in its current form (to state the obvious) has enormous ramification on our policy space, sovereignty and development.

It also constraints our ability to deliver basic socio-economic rights to our citizens.  The Fijian Constitution, assented to by the President on 6 September 2013, provides for unprecedented socio-economic rights, including the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation. We cannot let any trade agreement prevent Fiji from providing these basic necessities to our citizens.

I would at this juncture, like to state that the Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they should not dictate directions to the members but to provide technical advice and further our position.

And I would like to state that from my observations from Brussels, the Forum has been non-transparent and has not played the role of the Secretariat or carried out in honesty and sincerity the decisions of the Ministers and the wishes of the member states.

Chairman, Fellow Ministers, I have come here with a message that the EPA is not something to play with or to decide on the trot.

I do not need to remind you that we do not have technical capacity that the African and Caribbean states have in undertaking negotiations – therefore, our strength is in numbers and our unity.

Whilst countries such as Fiji and PNG have many resources to take advantage of, not all PACP States have the same luxury, as their sole resource is fisheries.

Fiji itself is facing a precarious situation with all our sugar stocks being sold to the EU, however, we will not agree to an Agreement that will provide short term market access but have long term impact on our development aspirations.

Fellow Ministers, the EPA negotiations are at a crucial stage, where we as Ministers need to guide and provide political direction to our officials and the Forum Secretariat.

Our objective is to negotiate an EPA that is development friendly and beneficial to all parties, especially our Small Islands Developing States.

Fellow Ministers, while some say we have spent 10 long years negotiating the Comprehensive EPA – that is not exactly true since there was lull from the EU side for a good number of years.

We have now reached a point where the finalisation of the negotiations is very important for some PACP States.  Some countries are being pressured into finalising a deal at any cost or moving to an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long term impact on our countries.

In this regard, we understand the urgency of Solomon Islands, who are perhaps being pushed into acceding to the Interim EPA to secure market access of their precious fisheries resources.

We believe that as a united region we can achieve a better Agreement, on our terms, that provides markets and at the same time, ensures the sustainability of our vital resources for the betterment of our people.

I have just come from a Regional Conservation Forum, which was held in Fiji and attended by over 800 delegates from the region and beyond. Present at this Conference was the Cook Islands Prime Minister and Ministers from Palau and Marshall Islands.

The Conference discussed conservation and management of our fragile environment. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our ability to maintain food security, among other things, will be impacted upon by the trade agreements we enter into.

Therefore, we need think and plan for the long term, not just for our children but for the generations to come.  We should not conclude an EPA, at the expense of our countries and our region’s future.

We need to put aside personal differences and egos and come together and think of our future and the future of the region and ask pertinent questions.

Are we getting the best deal – is the current EPA a development oriented agreement?

This brings me back to the decision made by the core group of Ministers in Brussels, that is, the decision to re-group and re-strategy and re-engage with the EU as a single, unified bloc, but not simply make decisions driven by technocrats and officials and in one day.

We are a stage in the negotiation where we need political will and decision made at the highest level.

The Ministers need to take responsibility for the EPA and the roadmap for successful conclusion of the EPA negotiations. I note that since November 2012, there has not been any PACP Leaders meeting.

The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in the PACP region and the EPA negotiations.  The PACP Leaders need to meet and provide the mandate to us Ministers and Officials on the way in which the EPA needs to be progressed.

Fellow Ministers, I urge you to look at the bigger picture – what is the relevance of this meeting and the meeting with EC Trade Commissioner, are we going to achieve the best results for our region?

Mr. Chairman, we still believe that as PACP States we need to meet and closely consider our strategy.

We also believe that the Leaders need to meet to consider some of the fundamental issues, as to how we can take ownership of the EPA negotiations and its implementation after conclusion of negotiations.

As we are aware, the Leaders have agreed to form a separate Secretariat for the PACP.  We as a region need to further discuss the decision of the Leaders and ensure that we fulfil their mandate.

Given what I have just stated, Fellow Ministers, as a matter of principle Fiji cannot participate any further in this meeting.

We are here to reiterate our message that the PACPS need to meet, without EU’s presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.  We all need to meet with PNG in regional setting as well, to understand the situation.

Our offer to meet in Fiji is still open.  We of course do not have to meet in Fiji but we do need to meet as a region and as was agreed in Brussels.

Our position does not mean that we are abandoning our regional neighbours. We are and have been from the start, a strong advocate of regional solidarity, which, perhaps has been to the chagrin of the Forum Secretariat and our detractors.

We are committed to negotiating a Comprehensive EPA, but one that is favourable to all parties, has development at its core and which is for the benefit for all our citizens.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to speak and I thank the good Ministers for their time.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Fijian Tourism Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Closing Remarks at 2013 Tourism Industry Day Agenda

Attorney-General and Minister for Environment Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Remarks before Presenting 10 Key Action Items for Nature Conservation at the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas

Bula vinaka and welcome to this special session where we will present the ten key actions that have been developed with input from High Level meeting of leaders from Government, the private sector and civil society yesterday.

As explained in the preamble, these actions are proposed as the ten overriding key actions that must be undertaken by Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) and partners if we are to deliver our conservation commitments by 2020.

Once adopted, they will form an integral part of the Action Strategy for nature conservation in the Pacific region for the next five years and beyond.

But before I begin presenting the key actions, which I’ll give you time to red now, I would like to take this opportunity to once again express Fiji’s firm commitment to furthering the cause of responsible environmental management in the Pacific.

As the recently appointed chair of this Conference, Fiji will ensure that the emphasis is placed firmly on action. We’re not interested in simply making grand pronouncements that are not achievable or are never implemented.

In fact, it gives me great pleasure to announce this morning that Fiji has offered to host a more focused high level meeting consisting of representatives from government, business, and civil society by no later than April next year to follow-up on these key action points that have been produced by this Conference.

We propose that this will be a gathering where we will seek firm commitments from individuals, organisations and governments about how they plan to action the outcomes of this Conference before they sign the 2014-2020 Action Strategy.

We want this gathering to reflect the Bainimarama Government’s belief – shared by many of our Pacific neighbours – that we need to adopt an inclusive approach to climate change and environmental preservation. This is what His Excellency the President of Fiji meant when he called for a “Grand Coalition.”

We want all stakeholders to have a seat at the table, including NGOs, the corporate sector, development partners, international organizations and individual communities from throughout the Pacific.

Indeed, such an approach served as one of the founding principles of the Pacific Islands Development Forum, the new regional body based in Suva tasked with finding practical, affordable and sustainable solutions to sustainable development.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is now my pleasure to present the ten key actions:

[List of ten key actions.]

Ladies and Gentlemen, each of these is important in its own right. But without action, it is merely a list of aspirations, nothing more.

I ask that you that you take the next few months to seriously consider these points and how they might fit into your existing efforts before returning to Fiji in the new year, ready to make firm commitments.

Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Saiyed-Khaiyum at the 9th Pacific Islands Conference

Attorney-General and Minister for Environment Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Welcoming Statement at the High Level Session – 9th Pacific Islands Roundtable on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas

Bula vinaka and welcome to this High Level Session where we will be discussing the Action Strategy for conservation efforts in our region for the next five years and beyond.

I would like to take this opportunity to restate Fiji’s commitment as chair of this Conference to work closely with all of you to tackle the environmental challenges we face in the Pacific region.

Together, our goal is simple and is summed up nicely by the Conference’s mission statement:

To protect and preserve the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Pacific Islands forever for the benefit of the Pacific and the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a simple statement. But never has our ability to fulfill this promise been under such threat. As Pacific Island Countries and Territories, we are on the front line of climate change.

Rising sea levels and ever more frequent tropical storms have a very real effect in our national lives, to such an extent that the very existence of some of our island neighbours is threatened.

While some here may follow the debate about the causes of climate change with interest, as far as Fiji is concerned it is an unfortunate distraction from the global action required to tackle one of this century’s most pressing issues.

However, Dr Nik Sechran had it right when he said that Pacific Island Countries can’t only see themselves as victims of forces beyond their control.

In terms of conservation practices, management of our natural resources and preservation of our environment there is much we can do individually and as a group to improve the prospects for ourselves and future generations.

We must meet the clear and urgent threat with clear and urgent responses where we can – solutions that are practical, affordable and sustainable.

I mentioned this morning that one of Fiji’s firm beliefs, which is shared by our Pacific neighbours, is that only by including the full diversity of perspective, expertise, and opinion will our region have a fighting chance of achieving such solutions.

So today I reiterate His Excellency the President of Fiji’s call for a grand coalition to face up to the challenges before us –  a coalition consisting of government representatives, NGOs, the corporate sector, development partners, international organizations and individual communities from throughout the Pacific.

This afternoon, in this room, we have gathered a cross section of such a coalition and so I ask that we participate in this forum in the spirit of Pacific union, particularly as we address some of the specific challenges that the previous Action Strategy has faced over the course of the last five years.

This is our opportunity to provide input that will encourage people to take personal responsibility for the Action Plan and make it more applicable to our various national and regional efforts.

This session also provides us the opportunity to make commitments towards achieving the 10 key actions that will be presented by Taholo Kami, the Regional Director IUCN Oceania Regional Office, later in the session.

Finally, I would like to stress that there are very high expectations – and indeed a lot of pressure on us – on us for when we have to present our key outcomes at the final plenary session tomorrow. It is our responsibility therefore to make sure that we meet these expectations, not just for now but for future generations.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we will now launch into this afternoon’s official programme by starting with a presentation from David Shepard, the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

With those word, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to once again welcome you to this session and wish you productive set of deliberations.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.