Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem has highlighted the relevant findings of the complaint filed by the National Federation Party and the responses received from FijiFirst and the Acting Permanent Secretary for Communications.
Saneem says the NFP has made incorrect references to the venue for the press conference which was held at level 10, Ro Lalabalavu House in Suva.
The press conference was in relation to the ‘inflation mitigation payment of $180.00’ and it was held by Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in his capacity as the Attorney General and Minister.
Saneem stresses Sayed-Khaiyum was not holding a press conference in his capacity as the General Secretary of FijiFirst.
Saneem adds as the AG, he responded to media queries in relation to relevant provisions of the Electoral Act.
In doing so, the AG criticized NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad’s statements as was within his capacity as a Minister to address and clarify certain information needed by the media.
Saneem says such action cannot be ordinarily viewed as campaign.
He highlights that the AG and Minister did not post on the Fijian Government Facebook page and also did not authorize the posts that were made subsequent to the press conference.
Saneem says the Acting Permanent Secretary confirmed that “the posts are in line with regular coverage of government events and media conferences”.
The SoE says Section 113(4) of the Act states that “it shall be unlawful to conduct campaign activities or to post or distribute any campaign material inside a public office.”
However, he says the said press conference was conducted by Sayed-Khaiyum in his capacity as the AG and minister and the statement delivered and the responses to questions in the media were part of the same press conference and his role.
Saneem says it is far stretch if the actions of the AG as minister were to be implied as actions in campaign.
This would undermine the entire functioning of government and would also set a bad precedent and could prevent office holders from delivering their legal functions.
Saneem clarifies the AG provided direct responses to statements made on the law.
He says it is also noted that NFP has incorrectly stated that Sayed-Khaiyum was speaking in his capacity as the General Secretary for FijiFirst perhaps in an attempt to build gravitas to a complaint conceived on poor interpretation of the law.
The SoE says they’ve noted that the NFP has raised issues in the complaint that there may also be a breach of section 113(2) of the Electoral Act by the Fijian Government Facebook page in publishing the press conference as well as the posts on the said page following the press conference.