Electronic voter registration machine supplier to be known in November
Publish date/time: 18/10/2011 [17:09]
In just about two weeks from now, the government will announce the successful applicant that will supply the Electronic Voter Registration machines.
Acting Prime Minister and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum gave this update to Switzerland’s Ambassador to Fiji Marion Krupski upon her visit to Fiji.
Sayed-Khaiyum said expressions of interest to undertake the registration of voters through the electronic machines closed on the 7th of this month and the announcement on the confirmed supplier of the machines will be made on November 1st.
He said the timeframe for the electoral system will be contained in the new constitution.
Sayed-Khaiyum has told the Swiss envoy that consultation on the new constitution will begin in September next year and the constitution will be implemented by September 2013.
He said he expects the Swiss Ambassador left satisfied with the level of progress the government is achieving on behalf of Fijians.
During the meeting Ambassador Krupski asked Sayed-Khaiyum about the recent poll by Lowy Institute and the popularity of Commodore Bainimarama which she found interesting.
The Acting Prime Minister said the Bainimarama government has been making strides in numerous areas like access to technology, social welfare and elections, all of which would naturally result in popularity.
Story by: Vijay Narayan
We know now (thanks to Wikileaks) that US officials had from 2008 sussed out Khaiyum's personal ambitions that are still very much at play to this day and which law abiding citizens and taxpayers of Fiji continue to endure:
Reference id: 08SUVA474 aka Wikileaks id #184183
Subject: Fiji: Bainimarama Firmly In Charge; No Path Yet To Elections
Origin: Embassy Suva (Fiji)
Cable time: Mon, 22 Dec 2008 02:47 UTC
References: 08SUVA315, 08SUVA400, 08SUVA432
History: First published on Thu, 1 Sep 2011 23:24 UTC
R 220247Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY SUVA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0884
INFO AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK
S E C R E T SUVA 000474
PLEASE PASS TO EAP/ANP
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2018
TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PHUM [Human Rights], FJ [Fiji]
SUBJECT: FIJI: BAINIMARAMA FIRMLY IN CHARGE; NO PATH YET TO ELECTIONS
REF: A. 08 SUVA 315
B. 08 SUVA 400
C. 08 SUVA 432
Classified By: Ambassador McGann for reasons 1.4(b) and (d)
1. (SBU) Summary. Bainimarama remains firmly in control of Fiji,s government. While he originally intended the President,s Political Dialogue Forum as a mechanism to further delay elections, the process has taken on a life of its own. While some within the Interim Government remain opposed to near-term elections, opposition political parties appear to recognize the necessity of reaching a political compromise. The IG has begun efforts to reach out to Fiji,s traditional chiefs in an effort to counter strong and largely unified opposition to the IG by Fiji,s indigenous population. In January in Port Moresby, the PIF is faced with a tough decision whether to suspend Fiji prior to an attempt at dialogue by its political leadership. Such an action might prove counter-productive and play into the IG,s hands. The Embassy believes we might be able to play a useful role in the early months of 2009 by publicly urging all parties to seek a workable compromise to return to democracy. End summary.
Bainimarama Firmly in Charge
2. (SBU) Two years after the December 5, 2006 coup, Bainimarama,s handle on the government remains firmly entrenched. Recent obvious miscues with New Zealand demonstrated his sense of confidence and ongoing need to show the military council that he is willing to stand up to Australia and New Zealand. Bainimarama,s frequent overseas travel also underscores his confidence in his position.
The President,s Political Dialogue Forum
3. (SBU) Work is ongoing preparatory to a meeting of the proposed President,s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) sometime early 2009. Most observers believe that Bainimarama originally intended for the PPDF to be a way to delay the election process because no one believed that it would be embraced by the opposition parties. However, the PPDF has now taken on a life of its own. During a November 16 meeting, deposed prime minister Laisenia Qarase told the Ambassador he would do whatever possible to make the PPDF work, despite earlier nay-saying by SDL spokesmen. Qarase said that he believes the time has come for compromise and if necessary he would be willing to step aside if Bainimarama would agree to relinquish administration of the government. Qarase was referencing a compromise following the 2000 coup when Ratu Jope Seniloli was given the vice presidency, a largely ceremonial but influential position.
4. (SBU) Qarase also noted that he would be willing to consider various formulae for returning democracy including reinstating the current parliament with a transition prime minister that would complete the two years left in this parliamentary session. These two years could be spent preparing for elections and implementing those acceptable ideas contained in the Peoples, Charter. Qarase said that whatever the final arrangement some compromise could be reached by March if all of the political leaders were just locked in a room together for a couple of weeks.
5. (SBU) At present, Robin Nair and Sitiveni Halapua are preparing proposed terms of reference for the PPDF. Presumably, a second meeting of political party leaders will convene early 2009 to agree on terms of reference for the PPDF. No date has been set for either meeting. The IG continues to wait for a response from the United Nations and/or Commonwealth as to what role each might play and whether either organization might nominate someone to chair the PPDF process.
6. (SBU) There is a clear need to give the PPDF greater structure, thereby limiting avenues by which the IG can avoid progress. Australian High Commissioner James Bately continues to express interest in funding a secretariat for the PPDF to help give it structure. This would enable Robin Nair and Sitiveni Halapua to not just be rapporteurs but also facilitate the PPDF process. All international partners recognize the need to ensure that the PPDF is a close-ended process.
John Samy and the NCBBF Process
7. (SBU) The National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) completed nation-wide &consultations8 on the draft Peoples, Charter this month and presented their report to the president on December 15. The NCBBF claimed to have consulted approximately 425,000 people, with more than 370,000 completing response forms, 92 percent of which reportedly fully endorsed the Charter. As reported reftels B and C, the consultation process involved a wide range of coercion and is perceived as having very little legitimacy. Opponents continue to question why, if the public truly supports the Charter, the IG remains unwilling to hold a public referendum on the document as originally promised. Meanwhile, the role the Peoples, Charter will play in Fiji,s future and how its aspirational goals will become political realities remains a mystery.
8. (C) In a recent lunch meeting, the architect of the Peoples, Charter, John Samy, told the Ambassador that that he undertook the process thinking it would be helpful to Fiji. As political events have unfolded since the Charter,s launch in August, Samy has lost enthusiasm for the direction of the IG. He expressed disappointment about the intimidation used to get people to endorse the Charter. Samy understands now that the aspirational goals of the Charter ) some of which are necessary to take Fiji away from race-based politics ) will not be met without returning to the 1997 Constitution and Parliament. Ultimately, it might require a deal among all the parties and it is too soon to tell whether the PPDF can achieve this. Samy said he was looking forward to his return to New Zealand.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and the Politics of Delay
9. (C) Some of Samy,s frustration at the direction the IG has taken undoubtedly stems from encounters with attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who remains close to Bainimarama and is strongly opposed to holding elections in the near term. Fiji,s highest ranking civil servant, Parmesh Chand, reached out to the Ambassador to express concern, both his own and on behalf of others within the IG seeking elections in 2009, about the AG,s influence with Bainimarama. Chand,s view, that the AG has captured the ear of Bainimarama in a negative way, is widely held in Fiji.
10. (C) While ideology undoubtedly plays a role, Sayed-Khaiyum,s personal ambition and political isolation likely fuel his opposition to near-term elections. The AG is not affiliated with any major political party, has limited contacts outside the IG, and would face an uncertain future should he lose his position. He was in default on several property loans to one of Fiji,s largest banks for much of the past two years; the bank unwilling to foreclose for (the entirely reasonable) fear that its expatriate managers would be deported should they do so. He recently resolved the delinquencies by selling the properties to law firms he dishes out IG work to, for prices well above fair market value.
11. (C) For the time being, Sayed-Khaiyum seems firmly ensconced, having time and again proven himself as Bainimarma,s go-to guy, resolving a number of political and economic problems created by other IG ministers.
Courting the Chiefs
12. (SBU) Bainimarama,s recent efforts to mend fences with Fiji,s traditional chiefs have shown mixed reviews. The IG invited 285 chiefs of all ranks to a traditional meeting (called a Bose ni Turaga) on December 16-17. About 123 turned out, largely lower ranking, primarily from the village and district levels. Notably absent were Fiji,s powerful provincial and confederate level chiefs, some of whom served in the SDL government, many bitterly opposed to the IG.
13. (SBU) Because the Bose ni Turaga lacks legal status (unlike the Great Council of Chiefs) and was not sanctioned by Fiji,s most powerful chiefs, the IG wisely refrained from pursuing any pro-Peoples, Charter resolutions. However, President Iloilo and Bainimarama both pleaded for support. The chiefs were asked to tell their people about the IG,s progress in making Fiji a better place. The IG may be seeking to siphon away some of the lower level chiefs who attended the meeting and their provincial and confederacy heads who did not. Although Bainimarama insisted upon this chief,s meeting, it seems he has taken a step away from trying to undermine the Great Council of Chiefs. Whether this is acknowledgment that he cannot put forward his agenda without the chiefs remains to be seen.
PIF AND PPDF OUT OF SYNC
14. (SBU) The PIF special session on January 27 in Port Moresby is scheduled to discuss suspending Fiji if the IG does not announce a clear path to elections. Bainimarama is not wont to do so until after the PPDF concludes, which entails a series of meetings, the first of which will likely start in February. The PIF is faced with a dilemma. To suspend Fiji prior to an attempt at dialogue by its political leadership would be counter-productive. At the same time, the PIF has not yet endorsed the PPDF process as a recognized mechanism to return Fiji to democracy. The PIF could be seen as backtracking rather than being assertive if it gives the IG yet another pass. The views of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea will be critical to the stance the PIF eventually takes.
15. (SBU) Bainimarama would see a decision by the PIF to hold off Fiji,s suspension as a clear victory. Despite the widespread belief in Fiji and the region that there is enough time for elections to be held in 2009, any compromise that emerges from the PPDF could play into the IG,s insistence that elections would take another 12-15 months.
16. (SBU) The Embassy notes that any compromise emerging from the PPDF would not likely take form until March at the earliest. Although many believe that elections can be held in late 2009, it is likely that whatever the outcome, Bainimarama will try to hold to the 12-15 month timetable he set starting from the day the Electoral Commission begins work but only after the PPDF agrees on electoral reform. Embassy believes that by publicly urging all parties to seek a clear path to return to democracy, we might be able to nudge Fiji,s parties to a yet-to-be-determined compromise.