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Fijians in Cook Islands miss out on voting

Thursday 1 December 2022 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Fijians in Cook Islands miss out on voting
Fijians in the Cook Islands during the Fiji Day Celebration in 2020. FILE PICTURE/22112328

With Fiji heading to the polls in less than two weeks, Fijians residing in the Cook Islands are frustrated they won’t be able to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming general election.

Most Fijians in the Cook Islands are expecting a change in government in Fiji after this year’s general election, says Roana Mataitini, the president of the Cook Islands Fijian Association.

Unfortunately, they won’t be able to have their say in who should lead their country for the next four years.

The hotly contested Fiji general election will take place on December 14, 2022.

According to Mataitini, no one from the Fijian Elections Office (FEO) had been in touch with them regarding the elections process for eligible voters living here. There are more than 2000 Fijians residing in the Cook Islands including children.

Mataitini said the association reached out to Fiji’s High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand, who told them to make direct contact with the FEO.

Fiji’s Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem told Cook Islands News voters residing overseas were not required to re-register for the 2022 general election but they needed to apply for a postal ballot using their existing green coloured voter card.

Postal voting applications available on the FEO website closed over a week ago and according to a statement, FEO will not be receiving any more applications past the deadline.

Mataitini said there had been a lack of awareness from the Fijian Elections Office.

A team from the Fijian Elections Office visited Rarotonga in 2018 to register voters for the 2018 election but Mataitini claimed there were no postal voting packages sent to the Cook Islands.

“We did not want to get the hopes up for our members and not have an answer when ballot papers don’t arrive for members to cast their vote.

“People are expecting a change in government but unfortunately we can’t see it through in the coming elections given our non-participation.”

David Tangaroa Vakalalabure who is part of the Friends of Fiji Inc group in Rarotonga shared similar sentiments.

According to Vakalalabure, Fiji citizens in the Cook Island have a history of being “disenfranchised” in the Fiji election since the current government came into power.

He also claimed that in 2018 a team from Fiji was in the Cook Islands to register voters but no one got to vote.

“The 2022 election is a repeat of the same. The Fiji government sent a team here recently for immigration purposes and renewal of passport but nothing relating to awareness and registration of voters for what most Fijians consider the most important election in the history of the nation,” Vakalalabure said.

“No political party can do anything if the responsible election entity does not see the need to register voters in the Cook Islands.”

Vakalalabure was also critical of Fiji’s leadership under its current Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, saying their leadership had reduced Fiji “as a regional economic power from attaining economic self-sufficiency – the objective of every consecutive government from 1974 up until 2012 – into an abyss of unprecedented level of foreign indebtedness”.

“The grave impact of their fiscal mismanagement of national revenue and resources is illustrated in the historical level of unemployment, poverty and outward economic migration that is evident here in the Cook Islands and around the region of the increasing arrival of Fijian foreign workers,” Vakalalabure said.