Politics

NFP lawyers want elections office to explain

The law firm acting on behalf of the National Federation Party has asked the Supervisor of Elections to explain why he suspended the party and where the law outlines rights and privileges they stand to lose. In a letter sent to Mohammed Saneem before Dr. Biman Prasad, Tupou Draunidalo and Prem Singh were suspended from parliament […]

Peni Shute

February 6, 2016 11:36 am

The law firm acting on behalf of the National Federation Party has asked the Supervisor of Elections to explain why he suspended the party and where the law outlines rights and privileges they stand to lose.

In a letter sent to Mohammed Saneem before Dr. Biman Prasad, Tupou Draunidalo and Prem Singh were suspended from parliament yesterday afternoon, Munro Leys lawyer Richard Naidu asked Saneem to explain why a suspension was necessary.

The power to suspend is exercised under s.19(3). That provision says that you may (emphasis added) suspend the registration of a political party to enable that political party to remedy the breach…In other words, it is a decision to be exercised in your discretion, to achieve a specified purpose. You do not have to suspend a political party.

Naidu said Saneem might have first given the NFP the “opportunity to be heard” in that decision, following the rules of natural justice” instead of suspending the party.

The power to suspend is not to punish. It is to enable compliance. Let us assume, for the purposes of argument, that you are right about the breach. NFP can remedy the breach just as easily when it is not suspended. So why did you suspend it? How would suspension “enable” NFP to remedy this particular breach?

In the same letter, Naidu alleges that Saneem had incorrectly interpreted the Political Parties Decree.

You correctly state that under s. 26(2) of the Decree the accounts of a political party must be audited by an auditor certified by the Fiji Institute of Accountants. You incorrectly suggest2 that this means a person holding a certificate of public practice under s. 22 of the Fiji Institute of Accountants Act.

We assume you have now worked out that there is no such thing as an auditor certified by the Fiji Institute of Accountants. The Institute does not certify “auditors”. It certifies “members” who are either provisional, licensed, affiliate or chartered accountants, certain of whom (we call them “CPPs” for short) must hold certificates of public practice.

Naidu told Saneem the Decree wasn’t clear on what the meaning of an ‘auditor’ was and said he could not hold the NFP to a non-existent legal test.

The letter also asks Saneem to explain which rights and privileges the MPs would lose as “We have searched but cannot find in the Decree any “rights and privileges” specified in the Decree for registered political parties.”

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