The calls made by the Opposition parliamentarians have been rejected today for the government to refer the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill for proper public consultation through the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
This bill seeks to amend the Act to provide that a person’s application for registration as a voter must state the person’s full name as specified on his or her birth certificate and must also be accompanied by his or her birth certificate.
The opposition raised objections after Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum today moved the motion in parliament under parliamentary standing order 51 that the bill be considered without delay, the bill must pass through one stage in the single sitting of parliament, the bill must not be referred to a standing committee or other committee of parliament, the bill must be debated and voted upon by parliament this Wednesday and one hour be given to debate on the bill.
SODELPA MP, Niko Nawaikula says every time the government tables a bill under standing order 51, it is asking that the scrutiny or participation of the public in the law making process is to be denied.
Nawaikula says this is not a simple amendment and it needs to go through public consultations.
He says this amendment deals with the case regarding him where he was removed from parliament and the National Register of Voters.
SODELPA Whip, Lynda Tabuya says this amendment to the law will affect a huge number of the population which are married women that use their husband’s name.
Tabuya says these women have been using that name in the last two elections in 2014 and 2018.
She also says it will make things harder for the registered voters like married women, especially those women in the rural areas.
SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka says the bill should not be rushed and should go through the normal process of law making.
He says lawyer, Richard Naidu has characterized this as a legislation by ambush.
Gavoka says they arrive on Monday not knowing that this bill is coming, they debate and it becomes law by Wednesday. He says we should be ashamed that most of the laws in Fiji are coming through ambush and they are rushed without public consultation.
National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says public consultation is needed and they should leave the changes to some of the electoral laws until after the general elections as it is too close to the elections.
He also says the electoral and political parties laws were not done by parliament but by the interim government.
In his right of reply, Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says some of these opposition parliamentarians are jumping the gun.
He says it is not unusual to change the law as times change.
Sayed-Khaiyum says in this case before the Court of Disputed Returns, given the submissions were not the full submissions made to the court, and the court only has 21 days from the time the matter is brought to it’s attention, the legal counsel failed to bring to the attention to the court of what would be the consequences of accepting common law principles of adopting common names.
Sayed-Khaiyum says authentication of identification is critically important.
He went on to talk about amendments where they will give women the option under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act where the mother or father can register the child, the deed poll requirement has been removed and people just have to go to the Birth Registration Office if a woman is married and decides to use her husband’s name and the registration will be given.
The Attorney General says the Registrar is also then compelled to inform all other agencies about the name change.
Sayed-Khaiyum says under the amendments that are coming, if a husband wants to adopt the name of his wife, he can also do that.
He also says when the new voter card is issued, then people have to register with their Birth Registration Name.
The motion for debate on the bill has been passed which means that the proposed law is up for debate in parliament this Wednesday.
Click to read: Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill
Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations