Fiji’s Electoral Commissioner quits

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The head of Fiji’s Electoral Commission has resigned – less than 12 months from the general election.

Lawyer Suresh Chandra made the surprise revelation during the signing of the Terms of Reference between the Fijian Elections Office, the Pacific Disability Forum and the National Council for Persons with Disabilities at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Monday.

Chandra told the gathering he had informed president Ratu Wiliame Katonivere of his decision, and that it was his final day in office.

Last Friday, three political party leaders called for Chandra’s removal.

The Fiji Labour, Unity Fiji and Freedom Alliance parties all wrote to the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC) asking for Chandra’s removal.

Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry, Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube and Freedom Alliance leader Jagath Karunaratne had called on the COC to appoint a tribunal to investigate Chandra in accordance with Section 137 (3) (a) (i) of the Constitution.

The party leaders claimed Chandra did not hold a current practising certificate as a lawyer.

In a joint statement, the party leaders also claimed it had been made known to them that Chandra had been ‘practising law on a conditional practising certificate over the past two years as a result of issues arising from losses from his law firm’s trust account.’

They had also called on the president to suspend Chandra pending the completion of the Tribunal’s investigation and findings under Section 137 (4) of the Constitution.

“We urge you to pay special attention to the recent complaints on the conduct and administration of the office of the Supervisor of Elections and now, the issues surrounding the chairperson of the Commission,” the statement read.

Chandra said he was honoured to be appointed for two terms as chairman of the Electoral Commission and always strived to uphold his appointment with dignity, pride and honour.

“It is with a heavy heart that I wish to advise that I have informed His Excellency, the President and the Constitutional Offices Commission that I am stepping down from my appointment as chair of the Electoral Commission,” he said.

“I would like to thank His Excellency the President, the Constitutional Offices Commission and the people of Fiji, for entrusting me with this tremendous responsibility.

“I would like to wish the Electoral Commission, the Fijian Elections Office and the people of Fiji all the success in the upcoming general elections,” he said.

Chandra was first appointed chairman of the Electoral Commission in 2017 and was reappointed last year for another three-year term.

The Constitutional Offices Commission is yet to respond to a request for comment.

SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS