Voters cry foul

Electors question neutrality of registration booth in CDO’s residence

By Gary Hatigeva

West Honiara registration booth at the residence of west Honiara constituency CDO Brian Taupiri, White River. Photo supplied

AS this week begins with hype and excitement for the registration programmes of the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC), voters in the West Honiara Constituency are concerned over the establishment of a registration booth within the private residence of the Constituency’s Development Officer (CDO).

In a letter to the Chief Electoral Officer of SIEC, cited by this paper, a Mr Bobby Soro Ledi has questioned the commission over the booth and its neutrality, which he said is not even in the designated venue.

In his letter, Ledi expressed on behalf of all eligible electors who shared concerns and complaints regarding the booth, which they thought was totally wrong and bias in nature.

“It raises questions of the neutrality of your office to ensure fairness and justice in this very important process of electing our national leaders.

“It is obvious that having chosen the CDO’s residence gives an advantage to one candidate over other candidates.

“This is already an indication of your office being influenced or infiltrated by one candidate to his advantage,” Ledi stated.

He then alleged that this also gives a clear indication of the corrupt practice happening within SIEC office in this registration process.

The concerned elector added that as such, based on such a decision, already a three-tonne truck registered no MB2089 (see photo attached) has made a lot of people to register in support of the candidate whom the resident owner supports.

He further added that it is also suspicious as to why other registration booths for West Honiara Constituency were not set up on time while the said registration booth was first to be set up.

Speaking on the same note, other concerned electors interviewed on Monday, are also questioning why the CDO’s residence when it is not in the SIEC’s Biometric Voter Registration Movement Plan.

“As far as we know, the only venue indicated in the Commission’s registration official programme is, at the Laundry Valley, more specifically, the Church Building and not the CDO’s premises,” a member of the concerned group shared.

Meanwhile, the West Honiara CDO Brian Taupiri when contacted denied the allegations and refuted claims he or the Constituency office is involved in the process.

Taupiri said the decisions to attend to the registration booth within his area is based on people’s choices and not being brought in or forced as alleged.

The CDO said he sees nothing wrong with it being held in his residence as it has always been used as a registration hub since 2006 up to the last one in 2014, and that the current registration programme in his premises is no different as it is a straight forward process for anyone to take part in if they are eligible.

He however pointed out that the decision to establish the booth at his area is something the officers in charge chose, knowing it is within his residence, and not at anytime his office ever asked the SIEC to play host to the important electoral programme.

CDO Taupiri said interestingly, there were other intending candidates seen on Monday, taking photos of the happenings at his place, and questioned their intentions as it is just a normal registration programme for all, and suggested for us to call the Registration Officer responsible.

He however called on intending candidates to be professional in their activities and allow for the process to take its course and not be used to score political points as it is not helping anyone.

This paper was able to talk to the SIEC Chief Electoral Officer Mose Saitala, who in his response said it was also a shocker for his office as it was never in the Commission’s official movement plan or the approved venues for all registration booths within West Honiara.

He explained that he was only made aware of the venue late on Monday and after being made aware of the matter, he had instructed for his office to deal with whoever that was responsible for the change and will be dealt with accordingly.

He added that a similar incident was also reported in one of the provinces and the SI Electoral Commission has dealt with the officer responsible, and it will see that the same is done with the officer(s) responsible for this uncalled for move to override an official decision.

The concerned group on the other hand stressed that as citizens and genuine voters within the West Honiara Constituency, they demanded for the registration booth to be removed and the electoral commission office to scrutinize the officers responsible for the changes.

The group stressed that while there is respect for the commission’s call for no obstruction to the registration process and to workers, such complaint as raised, may force people to do so if not dealt with accordingly.

They however pointed out that prompt action to this demand would be highly appreciated and would maintained respect to the SIEC’s call for no obstruction to the registration process.

But the SIEC CEO urged and reminded voters especially those unhappy with the raised matter, to leave the issue to the SIEC to deal with and not get involved in any unwanted and perhaps unlawful activities, but allow for the rightful authority to deal with them.

He also warned other areas and constituencies to be vigilante and ensure such situations and matters are reported to the Commission for proper actions.

Additionally, the group pointed out that with his confirmation of the questioned booth, not in the officially approved venues, the concerned voters further questioned the legality of the list that will come out from this booth and questioned if they (lists) will be used for the 2019 elections.

“Already, having the booth set up at the CDO’s resident gives an upper hand to the current MP, where anyone they brought in from other constituencies will have a free ride in being registered, even if they are in breach of the relevant sections of the new Electoral Act,” the group added.

According to the SIEC Biometric Voter Registration Movement Plan, there is never an indication of the CDO’s residence to be one of the venues for a registration booth, however, two other residential areas are pointed out but are further in different area, and not close to the CDO’s residence.

And this is something the SIEC, according to officials, will not allow knowing the area belongs to someone attached or close to either the current MP or any other candidates for that matter.

The Movement Plan also shows that the only approved location for the booth around that area was at the Anglican Church Building within the Laundry Valley boundary, which is about half a kilometre away from the CDO’s area.

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