A BITTER PILL FOR THE PUBLIC TO SWALLOW:
As for the Ranigas', they are free to make donations to FFP but when one of them is an Electoral Commissioner, LAW and MORALITY dictates that the couple MUST have no financial connection with FFP because of the Perception of BIAS regarding the functioning of the Fiji Electoral Commission, and in the conduct of holding general election. AJAY Raniga's financial donations are in compliance with the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013. But in 1999, the British Law Lords condemned one of their very own, Lord Hoffman, of acting as 'a judge in his own case' by failing to declare his close links with Amnesty International when he sat with four other judges to decide whether the then Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, was immune from arrest and extradition. Hoffman was criticised for flouting the basic principle that 'justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done'. One of the law lords, Lord Hutton, said public confidence in the integrity of the administration of justice would be shaken if Lord Hoffman's deciding vote that General Pinochet could be prosecuted was allowed to stand. Hoffman had failed to disclose that he was chairman of Amnesty International Charity Ltd, the fund-raising arm of Amnesty International, although Amnesty had been allowed to intervene and was in effect a party to the appeal. The Law Lords were not suggesting that Lord Hoffman was actually BIASED in the Pinochet case. But his links were so close that he was disqualified by law from sitting as a judge in the case. Furthermore, the link was compounded, giving rise to perception of bias, because LADY HOFFMAN, worked for the international secretariat of Amnesty International. One of Pinochet's lawyers, Clare Montgomery QC, had argued that that there was a "DUTY" upon Amnesty International and Lord Hoffman to disclose their connection.
In the case of the RANIGA's, neither of them have revealed AJAY RANIGA's financial links with the FFP. And, Kavita Raniga, is yet to respond to our questions: was she, or is she, aware that her husband has been making financial contributions to the FFP? As usual, neither Aiyaz Khaiyum, as general-secretary of the FFP and Minister for Election nor Mohammed Saneem, the Supervisor of Elections, disclosed Ajay Raniga's financial donations to FFP when Kavita Rangia's name was revealed as a new member of the Electoral Commission in 2017. Both had the LIST OF FFP PARTY DONORS on them. As for the two mediocre lawyers running the Elections Office, Khaiyum and Saneem, it is not worth wasting our energy commenting on them.
After all, Khaiyum, as that Indian Muslim Maulana declared, is the 'Raja of Fiji'.
Someone who has observed Saneem in action, recently summed him up to us: 'Saneem is the AG's b** boy. I was shocked at how subservient he was. Like a little schoolboy.'
KAVITA RANIGA MUST RESIGN FROM THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Fijileaks: Last year FFP raked in $220,000 in donations from BIG BUSINESS and Ajay Raniga, on 16 August 2019, donated $5000 to FFP. Under Fiji's 2013 Khaiyum Constitution and the 2014 elections decree, the Electoral Commission is an independent body tasked with supervising the Elections Office, which is responsible for preparing the VOTE. His wife, in February 2017, was elected a Commissioner to the Electoral Commission. Ajay Raniga is FFP fundraiser and a board director of Tourism Fiji. He is also Sunenergise founder. Ajay and Kavita Raniga operate a chain of stores under Budget Pharmarcy of Nadi and have other business interests as well. According to leaked FFP bank statements, on 7 August 2014, and before the election, Ajay Rangia had donated $10,000 to FFP. It has also been alleged that shortly after Kavita's appointment, her husband organized a fundraiser on Denarau Island at the Bombay Lodge Curry House and Beer garden. In attendance were Frank Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, including over 50 leading local businessmen. And yet Mohammed Saneem, the Supervisior of Elections, is doggedly pursuing the National Federation Party and its financial donations. While debating on the Companies Amendment Bill, Khaiyum said recently that someone from FijiFirst wrote to the Registrar of Political Parties because FijiFirst had their list of donors published and they wanted to find out if NFP and SODELPA are compliant. We have not seen the FFP donor list? Where was it published?
For Heaven's sake, as we have pointed out over the years, Saneem did not have the requisite qualifications when he was appointed in March 2014. We wrote: "Preferably, applicants must have at least 15 years’ experience in conducting elections and must be able to demonstrate that they have the skills and capacity to conduct national elections in one day using best international practices" - Minister for Elections Khaiyum, 16/9/2013; now Khaiyum says none of the 13 applications met the criteria set out; Australia and New Zealand, he says, told him to appoint Saneem
Why was the job not re-advertised?, we had asked but typically the Minister for Election refused to answer our questions
“Two days later, while the verification process [w]as ongoing, the Attorney-General, who is also the registered officer and general secretary of FijiFirst party, revealed in Parliament NFP’s donation list for 2018 and confirmed that he had sought the same from the Elections Office. Why was the list given to him if it wasn’t correct as alleged by Mr Saneem and needed verification?"
NFP leader Biman Prasad
Prof Prasad claimed this was also confirmed by the fact that the Registrar of Political Parties had withdrawn his complaint made earlier to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) regarding an allegation that the party received funds from a company of which bank transactions had been rectified at that time.
“I can assure the people of Fiji, especially NFP members, supporters, stalwarts and well-wishers that there is no fraud or financial malpractice, contrary to the perception that may have been created by the lengthy press release by the Registrar of Political Parties/Supervisor of Elections (Mohammed Saneem) on Thursday in respect to the party’s 2018 audited accounts.
“We have verified some of the alleged breaches raised by Mr Saneem and strongly dispute them.
“We have also referred these for expert advice and opinion.
“At the same time, we will appoint another auditor as required by the Registrar of Political Parties and get the 2018 accounts re-audited.
“Once that is completed within the time frame provided by Mr Saneem, then we will make further comments on the so called alleged breaches that Mr Saneem claims we have committed.
“However, we wish to question the Registrar of Political Parties, since he asked for the list of donors on 19th August for five years from 2015 to 2019, obviously trying to rectify his oversight in not asking for them since 2015.
“The Registrar of Political Parties only gave us one week to comply and stated failure to do so would result in the party being suspended.
“The lists for five years were provided on 26th August. Two days later, Mr Saneem asked for immediate possession of receipt books, later giving us three days to give them to him as it was impossible to do so immediately.
“We were also given a week to supply details of fundraising, which we duly did.
“But on Tuesday, September 1, Mr Saneem, in a media statement, when pointing out alleged variances and the need for further verification, said an announcement will be made once the corrections and variances are addressed for members of the public to access the most correct accounts of the party.
“Two days later, while the verification process as ongoing, the Attorney-General, who is also the registered officer and general secretary of FijiFirst party, revealed in Parliament NFP’s donation list for 2018 and confirmed that he had sought the same from the Elections Office. Why was the list given to him if it wasn’t correct as alleged by Mr Saneem and needed verification?
“We will reveal in detail what fully transpired between the party and the registrar once the entire process is completed.”
Meanwhile, there were media reports last evening suggesting the Fijian Elections Office had referred NFP to FICAC once again.
There was no official communication of this to The Fiji Times when this edition went to press last night.