Concerns about Current Preparations for the 2014 Elections
Differing Views by the Government, Military, Soqosoqo Vakamarama, Women's Forum, FijiToday and the Editor.
Educating voters. Several initiatives have already commenced. The Cakaudrove Provincial Council office is in the thoes of a week-long exercise on constitution awareness; PM Office Permanent Secretary Pio Tikoduadua has called on NGOs to take the lead because government can't do it alone;Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says the military will oversee the electoral and constitutional reform processes from beginning toend, and Soqosoqo Vakamarama executive Adi Finau Tabakaucoro said the the Women’s Forum held in Suva last week thought the military should stand aside, otherwise there will be a general perception that the processes will be biased.I'm not sure what Tikoitoga means by "oversee". It could be little or a lot. But I agree with Adi Finau that military engagement will be seen by some to create bias. Military engagement in voter registration may be unavoidable in the time period set but at least one representative of the Election Office should accompany the military and the overseas registration experts.
FijiToday questions educational awareness mix. Commenting on the work of the Provincial Council in Qamea, an island close to eastern Vanua Levu, FijToday isconcerned that "Government good works [are] coupled with national decrees and the constitution consultation process." The Roko Tui Cakaudrove, Ro Aca Mataitini, said they were working closely with the government officials and talking with village leaders on educating the people about the decrees and the constitution consultation. We are reaching out to grassroots people and villagers who are not aware of what is taking place around them. Secondly, they need to be educated about the work that the Government is doing and how it will benefit them.”
Editor's Opinion and a question.The education of people in all localities, including the most remote, on Government's "good works" and the constitution process should ideally be undertaken by different entities. In other circumstances and on other issues, informing villagers about government works and policies is part of the work of Provincial Councils, but their involvement (and Government's) in the constitution process, will raise doubts about impartiality. Given the logistics involved, I can see no simple way out other except perhaps by including an NGO representative, excluding the military personnel, and concurrent widespread radio coverage. But what do readers' think? How are remote islands and inland areas to be covered in advance of meetings with the Constitution Commission unless an administrative arm of government is included?