Parliament passes proposed electoral law requiring people to use their birth certificate name to be registered as a voter

Parliament passes proposed electoral law requiring people to use their birth certificate name to be registered as a voter

By fijivillage
Wednesday 22/09/2021
[Image: File Photo]


Parliament passes proposed electoral law requiring people to use their birth certificate name to be registered as a voter

Bill also passed where any agency which receives applications or submissions will only be required to accept the name of an applicant as it appears on their birth certificate
By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Parliament has passed the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill which now requires the application for registration as a voter to state the person’s full name as specified on his or her birth certificate and to also be accompanied by his or her birth certificate.

The bill was tabled on Monday and passed after a debate for one hour in parliament today.

Two other bills have also been debated and passed in parliament today after debate for one hour each.

The Interpretation Amendment Bill amends the Act to require those who are authorised or required by any written law to provide their name, to only provide their name as it appears on their birth certificate. This requirement extends to any form of identification provided by a person where such form of identification must state the name as it appears on the person’s birth certificate.

It also requires any agency or approving authority of any kind which receives applications or submissions to only accept the name of an applicant if the name is as it appears on the applicant’s birth certificate.

There is a transitional period where these provisions will ensure that certificates, licences, permits, deeds and other documents which refer to names of people that are different from the names on their birth certificates, continue in existence if they do not have an expiration date.

On the other hand, if such documents have an expiration date, then any renewal or new documents issued would have to refer to their names as specified on their birth certificates.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill removes the requirement for a deed poll and requires a person who wishes to change his or her name to do so by applying to have the change of name registered. This has to be done at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office.

The proposed amendment also reduces the age from 21 to 18 years for those that want to change their name.

It also seeks to amend the Act to permit the mother of a child born alive or stillborn in Fiji to register her child and to give her equal status as that of the father of the child. At the moment, only the father of a child may register the child at first and the mother of the child may only register her child if the father of the child is deceased, ill, absent or is unable to register the child.

While tabling the electoral bill for debate in parliament, Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says the ruling of the Court of Disputed Returns last month in Niko Nawaikula’s case has a significant impact on the National Register of Voters, and the changes to the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill is necessary to ensure people register with the names on their birth certificate.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Court of Disputed Returns stated that the law does not specifically require use of birth certificate names and for the purpose of registration as a voter allows the use of names other than the birth certificate name. He says the court nor the legal counsel considered the practical implications of such a strict literal reading of the law, and it was not brought to the court’s attention and therefore they did not expect to make a ruling on that.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the Fijian Elections Office will amongst other things find it difficult to identify and remove deceased persons from the National Register of Voters should people be allowed to register with names other than those on their birth certificate and this will allow people to register with more than one name.

The Attorney General says the Fijian Elections Office will also find difficulty in verifying a person’s citizenship and date of birth at the time of registration.

He says there will be a risk of manipulation as section 53 (1) of the Constitution states that a person has one vote with each vote being of equal value in a single National Electoral Roll.


200,000 of the 300,000 women’s names on the Voter List match with the birth registrations while 100,000 women are left to be verified

If people are unable to change their names on the voter ID card, that voter ID card will still be valid – AG
By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has today revealed that he has a list of all the 300,000 women who are registered on the Voter List, and 200,000 women’s names match with the birth registration numbers while 100,000 women are left to be verified.

Sayed-Khaiyum says for example on the island of Mali in the Northern Division, there are 12 women whose names do not match, 23 women’s names do not match in Kia, 6 in Namuka-i-Lau, 2,283 women in Labasa Town, 166 in Nabouwalu, 3 women in Toberua, 14 in Viwa, 49 in Bau, 3,287 in Navua Town, 724 women in Navua Rural, 72 in Vatulele, 5,590 in Ba Town, 6 in Vomo and 69 women in Mana.

He says the Fijian Elections Office will go out with the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office to these areas, get the women to fill their forms and register accordingly.

He also asked whether it is better that they fix up the records for everyone.

Meanwhile Sayed-Khaiyum says that if people are unable to change their names on the voter ID card, that voter ID card will still be valid.

He made the comments during the debate on the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill when the issue was raised by SODELPA MP, Aseri Radrodro that the voter ID card does not have an expiry date.




Apted says with absolutely no public consultation, laws are being passed that will burden many married women and members of a community who do not use their birth names in everyday life

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Former Supervisor of Elections and constitutional lawyer, Jon Apted. [Image: Munro Leys]

Former Supervisor of Elections and constitutional lawyer, Jon Apted says today with absolutely no public consultation, laws are being passed that will disproportionately burden many married women and members of a community who do not use their birth names in everyday life.

Apted has posted on his facebook page that some members of that community are given long names at birth for traditional reasons, which they later shorten for practicality’s sake.

He says the new laws will require them to go either to a Government Office to amend their birth certificate name or to Elections officials to amend their voter registration.

Apted says failing this, they may not receive a new voter registration card and lose their right to vote.

He says if their birth details are not amended, it would also require them to amend all other official records that contain their name to match their birth name, when their IDs expire.

Apted says this is not a requirement in countries like England, Australia, New Zealand or the USA.

The former Supervisor of Elections says in his opinion, it is completely unnecessary.

Apted says if the Fijian Elections Office needs birth registration for ID verification, they can take the voter’s birth registration number details as additional data while allowing people to use their normal names for official purposes.

He questions if it works for COVID-19 vaccination, why can’t it work for other purposes.

Apted says it is unclear how this will work for those without birth certificates or those who were born overseas and who use names that are not their birth names.

He asks why burden so many people at the risk of losing their fundamental right to vote, like this.

Apted further says every voter has a Voter ID with their photo also on the database, where a software should be able to identify duplicates.

The Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill, the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Amendment Bill and the Interpretation Amendment Bill have been passed in parliament.



The VKB is not under attack from the amendment - PM

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama.

Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama says as the Minister responsible for iTaukei Affairs, he wants to assure that the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill does not have any consequences on the culture, the registration of iTaukei in the Vola ni Kawa Bula and its maintenance.

Bainimarama says the VKB is not under attack from the amendment.

He says registration of new births under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act is separate and different to the registration in the VKB.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill removes the requirement for a deed poll and requires a person who wishes to change his or her name to do so by applying to have the change of name registered. This has to be done at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office.

The proposed amendment also reduces the age from 21 to 18 years for those that want to change their name.

It also seeks to amend the Act to permit the mother of a child born alive or stillborn in Fiji to register her child and to give her equal status as that of the father of the child. At the moment, only the father of a child may register the child at first and the mother of the child may only register her child if the father of the child is deceased, ill, absent or is unable to register the child.




It would be a big ask for women to change their name - Ro Teimumu

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 22/09/2021
SODELPA MP Ro Teimumu Kepa.

SODELPA MP Ro Teimumu Kepa says it would be a big ask for women to go to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office and change their name after the passing of the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill, the Interpretation Amendment Bill and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill.

Ro Teimumu has also questioned why the Attorney General is bullying and penalizing the women especially those who have adopted their husbands’ names.

She also says that in churches, members go through a ceremony to receive the sacrament of matrimony which encourages unity from the wife and children to have one family name.

Ro Teimumu says all three bills that are being debated in Parliament today only point towards FijiFirst winning the next elections.

She says we have already had two elections and FijiFirst has said that the 2014 and 2018 elections were free and fair.

Ro Teimumu says however these Bills are telling us that the elections were not free, fair and credible and it was the worst elections ever.




Prof Prasad says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill is the product of ‘My Way or the Highway’ approach

NFP questions if the suspension of the Solicitor General and this Bill are both linked to the recent Court of Disputed Returns judgement
By Naveel Krishant, Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad and Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

National Federation Party Leader, Professor Biman Prasad says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill is the product of dictatorship, pseudo-democracy and the ‘My Way or the Highway’ approach to governance in order to ensure continuity of the FijiFirst rule in this country.

While opposing the Bill in Parliament, Prasad says the changes do not even remotely resemble the flaws exposed by the High Court about registration of names of voters following a successful case in the Court of Disputed Returns by Niko Nawaikula.

Prasad says Nawaikula’s nominations for election candidature was duly accepted and approved by the Supervisor of Elections twice, in 2014 and 2018.

He adds the Supervisor of Elections failure rate in removing candidates for elections as well as Members of Parliament is alarming, because the investigations and cases instituted on the basis of his complaints are frivolous.

The NFP Leader further says the Supervisor of Elections then lost cases he reported to FICAC against the then MP Ratu Isoa Tikoca as well as the then Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy and against former SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

Prasad has also questioned if the suspension of the Solicitor General, Sharvada Sharma and this Bill are both linked to the recent Court of Disputed Returns judgement.

He also asked if it is true that the Prime Minister and the Attorney General asked Sharma to resign. He says these are substantial questions as it is related to the court case.

Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau asked Prasad to stick to the bill.

When contacted by fijivillage, Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem said he will not make any comments.

Meanwhile Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says in 2015, the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem was asked by the Pacific Islands Forum to lead the observer mission group to Bougainville, in 2016 he was part of the MSG Observer Mission to the Vanuatu snap elections and in 2017 he was part of the observer mission to the Tongan elections.

He says the Supervisor also held elections in a fair and credible manner.

Sayed-Khaiyum says if the international community was not working with the Supervisor, this would not happen.

He says the Supervisor also recently had a meeting with the international community in preparation for the next elections and everyone gave a resounding response to the changes that are being made.

Sayed-Khaiyum also says the cases Prasad refers to are matters with FICAC and it is up to FICAC if they want to pursue a case or not.

He says the Supervisor of Elections has a duty to report the cases.




Bills brought before the parliament are to save face of the AG and the Supervisor of Elections – Nawaikula

Nawaikula has misled parliament - AG
By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 22/09/2021
SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill, the Interpretation Amendment Bill and the Births, Deaths and Marriages Amendment Bill are totally unnecessary and all this is merely to save face for the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and the Supervisor of Elections as they lost their case against him and could not appeal however Sayed-Khaiyum says Nawaikula is misleading parliament.

Nawaikula says they are now being asked to do something that is personal to the Attorney General.

Nawaikula says this is not the first time as the USP saga was also personal to the Attorney General who dragged the whole nation and an all institutions in the parliament.

The SODELPA MP then said the Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has used the FijiFirst Government and the native MPs of his party to terminate the Great Council of Chiefs and nationalised institutions like the provincial councils and ITaukei Land Trust Board for ideology to remove ethnicity. Nawaikula also claimed Sayed-Khaiyum hates the native people and their rights.

Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Faiyaz Koya then raised a point of order saying Nawaikula is personalising the issue.

In his right of reply, Sayed-Khaiyum said that he wanted to address the racist comments made against him and he stated he is married to SODELPA Leader, Viliame Gavoka’s daughter who is an iTaukei and Nawaikula is saying that he hates his wife. Nawaikula then raised a point of order and withdrew his comment.

Meanwhile, Nawaikula says the Chief Justice was clear in his ruling and only interpreted the law which was made by this Government. He says soon after losing the case, the Attorney General blamed the solicitors that they did not make submissions on the fairness of elections and also claimed those were the shortcomings.

Nawaikula says the amendments brought before the parliament does not say that it has been brought for the elections to be free and fair.

He goes on to say that this has not been stated in the amendments because it will show the elections of 2014 and 2018 will be unfair.

In response, Sayed-Khaiyum says Nawaikula has misled parliament as the court did not consider the fairness or otherwise of the elections and simply looked at the particular provision in the law and did its interpretation.

He says modern day states are constantly looking at how to make the system better and that’s what it is about.



FWRM Concerned that Changes in the Laws on Name Change Discriminates Against Married Women, Interferes with Their Democratic Right to Vote

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. [Image: FWRM]

The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement had strongly urged parliament not to pass the amendment to the electoral act today which they say are gender discriminatory and unconstitutional, and which will negatively affect thousands of women in Fiji.

The FWRM says it is concerned about the suggested amendments to the electoral laws in regards to name change and how it will disproportionately affect a vast majority of married women in Fiji, who take their husbands’ names after marriage.

FWRM Executive Director, Nalini Singh says the proposed bill is inherently discriminatory towards women, as well as being unconstitutional as the Bill of Rights states that women may not be discriminated against on the basis of their sex and gender.

Singh says early last year, the Supervisor of Elections issued a statement that all Fijians must confirm their voter registration names with the names on their birth certificates. She says now, we are at the cusp of having changes made to our current electoral laws in this same regard.

The FWRM Executive Director says this amendment is disproportionately discriminatory towards married women compared to men because the majority of women change their surnames during the process of their legal marriage registration, taking on their spouses' surnames.

Singh says this process, however, does not automatically change the names on their birth certificate or their passports.

She says at a time when the entire country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, these women have to go through the significant inconvenience of travelling outside their protective bubbles and standing in long lines, to change their names as per the suggested amendments, risking their own safety.

Singh says they then have to change their licences, passports, identification documents for work, FNPF, and the list goes on.

She questions how is this promoting women’s equality.

The FWRM Executive Director says this makes hollow the government’s commitments under UN conventions and policy commitments to improve gender equality.

She says after they change their birth certificates, they literally have to change so many other documents.

Singh says this new requirement only increases women’s financial and time burdens during these times of economic hardship, as they have to bear the transport costs, ensure care for their children and families, line up and pay for the amended certificates, after which they have to confirm their voter identification details.

FWRM is also concerned about women who are unable to access services to get their names changed.

While speaking in parliament, Sayed-Khaiyum said he had seen the FWRM’s statement on fijivillage and he stresses that the new law does not stop the women from using their husband’s name.

He says if you look at most societies including the indigenous society in Fiji prior to European contact, the women never adopted the husband’s name.

Sayed-Khaiyum says women carried the names of their fathers.

He says with the new law, the women can decide themselves if they want to change their names, and all they have to do is go to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office, fill out the form and a new birth certificate with the changed name will be done.




It looks like the Opposition do not want free and fair registration of voters - Bala

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Minister for Employment Parveen Bala. [Image: Parliament of Fiji]

Minister for Employment Parveen Bala says it looks like that the Opposition do not want free and fair registration of voters.

Bala says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill upholds the principle of fairness, transparency and accountability upon which our electoral system is based.

He says from their contribution, it seems the Opposition do not want the balance of rights and fairness.

Bala says it seems the Opposition has chosen to speak in one voice against the Bill and it raises serious questions about their ethics and principles.

He says the Bill simply provides a security lock on the electoral toolkit which means that we avoid voter fraud and the vote of each Fijian is protected.

Bala adds we cannot allow a voter to register and in all possibility vote multiple times.



Bill will help maintain a clean voter list and protect the rights of registered voters - PM

By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill will help maintain a clean voter list and protect the rights of all registered voters.

While speaking on the Bill in Parliament, Bainimarama says the Bill refers to authenticating the process for a free and fair elections.

The Prime Minister says the amendment will support equality and authenticity of all registered voters.

Bainimarama says this is to ensure that laws apply equally to all, eradicating any opportunity to corrupt the voter list and thereby protecting the freedom and human rights of Fijians.

He adds in preparation for the 2022 General Elections and beyond, they will continuously support the effective conduct of the elections through reviewing, reforming its legislative framework and allocating more resources to enable its effectiveness and integrity.



The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill and the other 2 bills do not take away the birth right of anyone – Dr Waqainabete

By Naveel Krishant
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete.

Health Minister Dr Ifereimi Waqainabete says the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill and the other two bills being debated in parliament, does not take away the birth right of anyone.

While supporting the bill in parliament this afternoon, Dr Waqainabete says if you look at the three bills, they are consistent with best practices.

He further says he finds it very despicable that the Opposition would bring up the race card in this discussion.

Dr Waqainabete says what this means is to ensure a person who has multiple names will align to one name.

He says there is nothing sinister in this.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill removes the requirement for a deed poll and requires a person who wishes to change his or her name to do so by applying to have the change of name registered. This has to be done at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office.

The proposed amendment also reduces the age from 21 to 18 years for those that want to change their name.

It also seeks to amend the Act to permit the mother of a child born alive or stillborn in Fiji to register her child and to give her equal status as that of the father of the child. At the moment, only the father of a child may register the child at first and the mother of the child may only register her child if the father of the child is deceased, ill, absent or is unable to register the child.



Taking a pathetic and childish dig at my competence at the business committee level is misogynistic and sexist - Qereqeretabua

It would be sexist if I only called females incompetent – AG
By Sheenal Charan
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and National Federation Party MP, Lenora Qereqeretabua

National Federation Party MP, Lenora Qereqeretabua says that she would like to remind Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and self-acclaimed expert on everything that taking a pathetic and childish dig at her competence at the business committee level is misogynistic and sexist.

She says she will not be lectured by him about competence when his own incompetence with lacunas everywhere has thrown the nation off a cliff from $2 billion in debt to now almost $9 billion and then he has the audacity to say that the debt is good.

Meanwhile Sayed-Khaiyum says Qereqeretabua is getting it wrong and it would be sexist if he only called females incompetent.



Change in law imposes huge obligation on our women especially those in rural areas – Adi Litia

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 22/09/2021
SODELPA MP, Adi Litia Qionibaravi.

SODELPA MP, Adi Litia Qionibaravi says there is no need to change the law to force hundreds of thousands of women to change their name and get a new voter card just because three people tried to register twice in 2018.

While speaking on the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill, Qionibaravi says this change in the law imposes a huge obligation on our women especially those in rural and remote communities.

She says this will also be tough for women in urban and peri-urban areas.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill removes the requirement for a deed poll and requires a person who wishes to change his or her name to do so by applying to have the change of name registered. This has to be done at the Births, Deaths and Marriages Office.

The proposed amendment also reduces the age from 21 to 18 years for those that want to change their name.

It also seeks to amend the Act to permit the mother of a child born alive or stillborn in Fiji to register her child and to give her equal status as that of the father of the child. At the moment, only the father of a child may register the child at first and the mother of the child may only register her child if the father of the child is deceased, ill, absent or is unable to register the child.




The right to change their names remains with the women - Kumar

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 22/09/2021
Minister for Education, Premila Kumar.

Minister for Education, Premila Kumar says the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill is not only for the ruling political party but for every eligible voter regardless of their gender, ethnicity, colour or class.

She says we still have women who do not wish to change their surnames or use their husband’s surname solely based on their marriage.

Kumar also clarified that people do not have to spend money to change their name as people will not have to hire a private lawyer.

Parliament has passed the Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill which now requires the application for registration as a voter to state the person’s full name as specified on his or her birth certificate and to also be accompanied by his or her birth certificate.



Did the Supervisor of Elections lodge a complaint against the SG - Ro Filipe

Graham Davis has got grievances and is currently sitting in Sydney writing stuff up - AG
By Shanil Singh
Wednesday 22/09/2021
SODELPA MP Ro Filipe Tuisawau and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

SODELPA MP Ro Filipe Tuisawau says according to former public relations advisor for Qorvis, Graham Davis, the Supervisor of Elections lodged a formal complaint and alleged that the now suspended Solicitor General Sharvada Sharma was negligent and mishandled the case against Niko Nawaikula.

Ro Filipe says these are some of the issues that not only them but the public are concerned about.

He has questioned the rationale behind this.

While responding in parliament, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says he thought Ro Filipe had higher standards and he is now resorting to people like Graham Davis.

Sayed-Khaiyum says Davis was simply an employee and no longer employed.

He says Davis has got grievances and is currently sitting in Sydney writing stuff up.

The Attorney General says Sitiveni Rabuka was once the SODELPA Leader and has now formed another party but the government does not go on about that.

Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem says he will not make any comments.



Click to read: Electoral Registration of Voters Amendment Bill

Click to read: A Bill for an Act to Amend the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1975

Click to read: A Bill for an Act to Amend the Interpretation Act 1967

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