Integrity of Registration officers questioned

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By Gary Hatigeva

CONCERNED Constituents are questioning the integrity and conduct of Registration officials in some of the registration centres in Honiara.

This is in light of alleged collaboration between some candidate representatives and Registration Officers (ROs), who are allegedly using some of the registration centres to carry out the person to person campaign strategy, by luring registrants to support their candidates.

Some West Honiara voters are again coming out with concerns over what they claimed to be actions by certain individuals who are non-officials but seemingly have access to the booths, even up to restricted spots.

Earlier, the group questioned the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) over an issue of neutrality of some Registration Booths in the constituency, and are again questioning the SIEC over the integrity and influential collaboration of officials and candidates through representatives.

In a letter to the Commission sited by this paper, pointed out that in this complaint, the group raised the question regarding the neutrality and partiality of your electoral registration officers at certain VRCs in West Honiara Constituency.

The group alleged that there is a candidate’s supporter (name withheld for now) who continues to make his presence too obvious, within the New Apostolic Church VRC without.

The group stressed that what concerns them most is, knowing the individual is not a member of the Registration team, the registration officers chose not to remove or have him removed.

“Your registration officers’ failure to report him to your office raises questions on their neutrality and responsibility. We reported this person earlier with a photo of him wearing your registration officers’ uniform and influencing others at the closed VRC but it seems that your office has failed to take action on this,” the group added in their letter.

The group then questioned the suitability of officers and further alleged that they (electors) have experienced a number of registration officers changing the village area as printed out in some of the Voters Identification Cards for which they have no right to do such.

“For example, there are eligible voters who told the officer that they reside at Laundry Valley but then in their Voter Identification Cards show Bishop Epale and Rifle Range as their village area without clarification.

“I also questioned the competency of some of your registration officer on the electoral act and literacy level. One registration officer in the Apostolic Church VRC was asking the eligible voter to spell her name and village name.

“One other Officer asked one eligible voter this question, “How do you spell Choiseul,” the concerned group’s spokesperson said.

Other reports have also suggested that voters in some of the provincial constituencies are also frustrated over alleged decisions made by some registration officers, without the Commission’s approval, which many said have impacted the chances for more people to be registered.

Meanwhile, SIEC clarified that the Commission has already issued a warning to intending candidates and their agents to stay away from the Voter Registration process.

The Commission explained that Registration booths are only to be manned by Assistant Registration Officers Data and clerks, and anyone who has completed the registration process should leave the centres to allow for others to register.

“Do not obstruct the legal process.”

The Commission in its clarification added that Registration Officers (ROs) are responsible for their registration teams therefore any issues should be reported to ROs.

“The line of reporting for AROs Data is to their constituency RO and then to the province’s Registration Manager (RM).”

Officials then suggested that the media should question and hold ROs and RMs accountable for any misconduct because ROs have been delegated the responsibility to ensure their teams conduct activities professionally.

However, on the issue of asking a voter to spell his or her name or village name, is part of the process, as it is very important to ask an interviewee to spell their names in order to get their names right.

“Officer cannot assume the spelling when they heard the name. People have to spell their names in orderto get the name right in the roll. Also we have different dialect and ways of writing our own dialects and these are reasons why this is included as part of the training”.

The concerns are however, some of the issues raised by the Home Affairs Minister Ismael Avui, who after the passage of the Electoral Act 2018, made a strong warning and cautioned all electoral officials not to get involved in any of the processes of elections, both the registration and election itself.

He stressed that those caught involved in the registration and the up coming national general elections, will be dealt with thoroughly and also pay a heavy price.

“The people of Solomon Islands, especially with the recently passed Act, expect you to be neutral when doing your registration and electoral duties.

“Registration, Revision and Returning officers, let me remind that the moment you get involved in in any action that favors an intending candidate is a serious breach of the new law,” the Minister warned.

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