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Indian-led Fiji party alleges racism

Fiji Labour Party's M Chaudhry has said that the results of the upcoming general polls could be affected by racial disparity.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 17:23 IST

The Fiji Labour Party (FLP) led by former Indo-Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has alleged that the results of the upcoming general election could be affected by racial disparity in the appointment of polling clerks and counting agents.

FLP spokesman, Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi said that not many Indians or members of the minority communities were picked to be part of the polling and counting teams as returning officers who represented the national election office handpicked them.

Indians constitute around 44 per cent of Fiji's population of nearly nine million. Fiji goes to the polls from May 6 to 13.

"The Party (FLP) had earlier written to the Supervisor of Elections and the chairman of the Electoral Commission on this subject; however, the issue has not been addressed," Vayeshnoi said.

Alleging that not many civil servants were recruited as polling clerks and count officials, he said that this was a matter of serious concern since those manning the polling and counting processes are required to be responsible and accountable, such as civil servants.

He demanded that the Electoral Commission and the supervisor of elections ensure that there is a fair ethnic representation in the conduct of the general election.

Supervisor of Elections Semesa Karavaki, however, said that race should not be an issue for anyone who had been called up to undertake national duties.

"I thought we are all Fiji islanders and the only thing that matters is that we must all do our work to the best of our abilities and fairly," Karavaki said.

He said that the though the Electoral Commission had wanted 15,000 civil servants for poll duty, only 4,000 were released by the government.

First Published: Apr 24, 2006 17:23 IST