Statement by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission
Mr Mukesh Nand
Official handover of Braille materials from US Chargé d’Affaires
06 July 2022
FEO Conference Room @10am
US Chargé d’Affaires, Tony Grubel,
Representatives from the Elections Disability Access Working Group (EDAWG)
Director of the Human Rights and Social Development Division of SPC, Miles Young,
Distinguished invited guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
This morning I start by repeating 2 pertinent preamble statements from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. From an electoral perspective these statements encompass the spirit of the convention for election management bodies:
(n) Recognizing the importance for persons with disabilities of their individual autonomy and independence, including the freedom to make their own choices,
(o) Considering that persons with disabilities should have the opportunity to be actively involved in decision-making processes about policies and programmes, including those directly concerning them
Today’s event is yet another step towards building electoral processes in Fiji that are inclusive and promote greater access and participation. Since 2014, the Fijian Elections Office has taken direct initiatives to work with Disabled Persons Organizations and other institutions that have expertise in this area. The outcomes of such collaboration does not get mentioned in everyday conversations but they truly are significant.
The Electoral Commission’s vision for the 2022 General Election is to create a platform for all Fijians to exercise their rights with confidence, security and freedom. I draw your reference to section 43 (4) of the Electoral Act which requires that:
The facilities provided at a Polling Station where practicable must be reasonable equipped and designed to enable persons with disabilities or other special needs to cast their vote.
This morning, we received 2100 copies of ‘Assisted voting steps -the easy to read guide for the General Election’ in Braille and another such guide that is designed to enable persons with disabilities to participate in the election on their own. These materials will allow them to understand the electoral process better and participate effectively.
I take this opportunity to thank all the agencies that participated in this critical exercise and I thank the donor agencies that saw value in this essential project.
I wish to conclude by highlighting section 42 of the Constitution of the Republic of Fiji on the rights of persons with disabilities:
A person with any disability has the right—
(a) to reasonable access to all places, public transport and information;
(b) to use sign language, Braille or other appropriate means of communication; and
(c) to reasonable access to necessary materials, substances and devices relating to the person’s disability.
While today’s event marks our small steps towards facilitating the above Constitutional Rights, I am sure it will have a big impact on the ultimate participation and ownership in Fiji’s electoral processes.
Thank you and vinaka vakalevu.