SIEC starts crack-down on people selling and buying voter ID cards
By Gary Hatigeva
THE Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) has confirmed activating its major crackdown programme to follow up on people alleged to have collected and bought Voter ID cards since the close of the Registration period.
This comes as a follow-up from the data revealed by the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system from the recent registration programme and reliable information obtained.
In confirming this, SIEC Manager Operation Fred Bosaboe told Island Sun that the Commission is working closely with police to execute its mass crackdown exercise, which is expected to be happening soon.
He said the follow-up also comes as part of some complaints and claims raised by concerned voters of people who are allegedly collecting thousands of cards from voters in exchange for financial and personal benefits.
Bosaboe further revealed that around 1000 cases have so far been spotted under the system and information in hand, of people believed to have deliberately defrauded a programme that is guided by an Act of Solomon Islands.
It is believed that a lot of those who are involved in the multiple registration activity, have done so with intention to sell their cards to intending candidates, while candidates on the other hand, are said to be buying cards for the purpose of making estimates to the data of their potential voters for next year’s election.
And it is also said that this is the very reason why a good number of voters who registered in the 2014 registration programme, have appeared in numbers in the recent registration phase asking for replacement of their cards.
However, a lot of section within the new Electoral Act prohibits such activities, highlighting that is an offence for candidates to buy vote or voters soliciting the sale of their votes for any kind of benefit from a candidate, and those caught can face a penalty of $150,000 or 15 years imprisonment or both.
Vote buying or card trading according to officials, is also another form of campaigning, and to be engaged in campaign activity outside campaign period, also commits an offence and can face a penalty of $20,000 fine or two years imprisonment, or both.
Meanwhile, Mr Bosaboe explained that a good number of those to be called in for questioning through collaboration with police, also includes people who have ignorantly defrauded the registration system by engaging in multiple registrations or registering more than once.
Interestingly, the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system was also able to pick out one person who managed to register the highest up to 10 times in the recent registration period under different constituencies, using different names.
Unfortunately, he was caught in almost all aspects of the system, as the system according to SIEC, is so sophisticated that it was able to scan for both facial recognition and thumbprint matches, and in this person’s case, the system picked it out clearly, matching all details around 10 times, with a funny name in his last registration.
“And so yes, we are expecting a mass arrest of people attempting and evidently involved in card collecting, including those who are also involved in multiple registration,” Mr Bosaboe confirmed when asked.
Meanwhile, the SIEC Manager Operation stressed that they do acknowledge the fact that many are raising genuine concerns all over social media and mainstream media, but pointed out that it is unfortunate the commission has not received anything in formal.
He therefore, urges complainants to make formal submission of complaints to the commission for thorough follow ups if they have information of those currently involved in card collecting, and revealed that if caught, arrests and prosecution can take place.
He however warned that people involved in this practice have to stop, “because once the authority catches up on you, like the ones that have been noted for arrests, they too will get called up and if guilty, they will receive heavy punishments.
The New act speaks out clearly on such activities, placing an illegal status on them and people can be pay up to 150,000 units or imprisonments of up to 15 years max.
But of the 1000 cases revealed, the commission is of the view some of those spotted might later get released off the hook, and if it does, the commission anticipates the actual to be around 800 cases.