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'Don't Be Intimidated' Plea To Fiji Voters

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'Don't Be Intimidated' Plea To Fiji Voters

http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/index.html

By 'ANA TAPUELUELU and TOMASI RAIYAWA: August 24, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): A senior university academic who has led election research teams in Fiji and Samoa today appealed to voters not to be intimidated by fear.

"Rumours spread like wildfire and fear is infectious," said Dr Esther Williams, chief librarian of the University of the South Pacific.

Rumours created a climate of uncertainty, she said.

"We hear that there have been threatens of violence if the outcome of the elections is not what certain groups of people want," Dr Williams said.

"We also hear of possible civil unrest and intimidation against some voters during election week.

"Some people are scared; some are anxious. But for many, the predominant feeling is one of hope that that the elections will take place smoothly

"Despite the rumours, you must vote."

Dr Williams today despatched a group of 40 USP research assistants to study this year's election in which polling begins tomorrow.

The university has created a data base for monitoring elections.

Writing in the Fiji Times, she said she would like to believe that voting would be free and fair and there would be no violence.

Compared with the 1999 election, fewer people were following this year's campaign.

People who were following the election process considered campaign messages with "some scepticism, mixed with curiosity and confusion.

"On senses a feeling of apathy," Dr Williams wrote.

People needed to vote because their decisions would determine which government would rule for the next five years.

"People must vote. It will be perhaps the most important decision we will all have to make for a very long time," Dr Williams said.

"Your vote will decide who will govern the nation and take care of our future in the next five years."

She said the vote was especially important for rural people.

"For many, particularly the rural voters, the elections will provide a chance to put people they want in power," Dr Williams said.

"This election is a test for democracy. With the commitment by the army and the police to keep peace in the country over the crucial time ahead, we shouild embrace the elections as the most crucial in our political development."

+++niuswire

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