A free and fair Fiji elections, NGOs urge

Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem (center) with electoral officers.

Fiji’s NGO Coalition on Human Rights (NGOCHR) is calling for free and fair elections in the upcoming December 14 elections.

Members of the NGOCHR include the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF), FemLink Pacific, Social Empowerment and Education Program (SEEP) and Diverse Voices and Action for Equality Fiji (DIVA).

The NGOCHR says the election is an opportunity for Fiji citizens to not only exercise their right to vote, but to exercise other civil liberties such as freedoms of speech, association and assembly and deep democracy.

The Coalition believes the upcoming elections has already fostered greater political participation, with an increase in political parties since the 2018 elections.

It added political debate and public dialogue has also increased and should be encouraged, but without personal attacks and maligning.

NGOCHR emphasised: “A country cannot be truly democratic until its citizens have the opportunity to choose their representatives through elections that are robustly conducted, free and fair. Elections will also allow for peaceful, democratic political transitions. It is vital in building longevity in our fragile parliamentary democracy.

“Fiji’s history is littered with dissatisfaction and coups and the upcoming general election is an opportunity for us to take our place in the region as a beacon of hope, freedom, and democratic values.

They urge duty bearers to ensure human rights violations do not occur anywhere in Fiji, and that principles of democracy, gender justice and human rights are protected by all means.

NGOs and CSOs must also be allowed to carry on their work in the usual manner without any undue interference by anyone, the Coalition adds.

“The State must ensure that all can freely participate including women as representatives of half of our population and all at risk, vulnerable and marginalised groups such as youth, members of the LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, those in informal settlements, rural and maritime areas and others are protected and that their access to services are not impeded in any way,” a statement released Monday said.