The Supervisor of Elections, FEO Directors, Presiding and Assistant Officers trainees and, Invited Guests. Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and a warm welcome to the Presiding Officers Training Launch for the 2022 General Election.
Congratulations on your shortlisting to be the Polling station managers on Election Day or during Pre-poll. On the date of polling, you all will be the senior most Election Officials on the ground and in-charge of the polling place.
This is a huge responsibility and we all believe that each of you have proven on merit that you are capable of the task. This training is for both potential Presiding and Assistant Presiding Officers.
These trainings will be a full day training which will start from 19 April 2022 and end on 26 May 2022 and we expect to train 7,145 participants during this Phase.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these trainings are an essential component for preparing you to manage polling. It will prepare you for all the tasks that you have to undertake and also to administer.
Do not underestimate the importance of any task. All of them are important. I repeat – all of them are important. You will all play a vital role come Election Day.
You will not only represent yourself during the national exercise but also act as ambassadors for the Fijian Elections Office [FEO].
The Presiding Officers Manual will be your guide and it will have all the answers you may have. Also, each one of you will undertake specific tasks at your respective Polling Venues and Polling Stations on Election Day.
The team at FEO has transferred all the necessary legal requirements into the manuals for you. Use those manuals. Follow all instructions in the manual.
There will be polling agents and observers that will be trained to check that you follow all the procedures come Election Day.
So, it is of high importance that every one of you pay attention during the trainings. You can ask questions if you are not sure or confused with the respective trainers and most importantly practice what you are going to learn during the training.
You have been selected for a reason and that is to be a focal point of communication between the FEO and the voters that will turn up to cast their votes at Polling Venues around the country on Election Day.
We at the Electoral Commission [EC] together with team from the FEO expect the best from you. We need you to be fair, honest, impartial, hardworking and demonstrate confidently in your line of work and we have full confidence that you will be able to demonstrate these.
We encourage you not to be easily influenced by outside sources such as social media, fake news, misinformation and disinformation which you will often come across now until the election.
On the topic of fake news and misinformation, in the recently launched Pre-Election Voter Survey by the FEO, of the 9,292 responses, 62 % had noticed fake news on social media websites while 38% did not.
As expected, majority of persons have suggested that they had come across fake news, misinformation on Facebook with Facebook being the most widely used social network in Fiji. It is imperative that every employee of the FEO demonstrate a greater level of responsible online behavior. Ladies and Gentlemen, you may ask why the EC and the FEO provide adequate trainings and emphasize the importance of such trainings.
One may just have to look at the Multinational Observer Group Report on the 2006 General Election, where it had been noted that polling place rules were applied inconsistently.
In some places, the polling places were setup under trees without any exact guidelines. In some polling places, polling staff allowed people to enter the venue carrying their bags while polling officers in other polling venues required voters to leave their bags outside before they entered.
We must ensure that we follow the procedures laid out by the FEO. These have been prepared with the experience of two (2) elections and the review by various electoral experts that support the FEO.
You will also find that these procedures are also consistent with many other countries in the world conduct elections. Be confident and execute these processes. Before I conclude, let me remind you that this is a very important year for the nation.
We are preparing for the Election. I and my fellow Commissioners would like to encourage that you all need to play your part, work together as a team and apply the trainings and learnings you will receive in your respective work.
I wish you all the very best in the training and look forward to working with you as we deliver the 2022 General Election.