Parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a facade
September 17, 2021
The National Federation Party believes parliamentary democracy has been reduced to a façade by the actions of the Speaker, the Secretariat, and the Tables Office of Parliament.
The Party said it will write to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), of which Fiji is a member, to alert IPU of the shenanigans of the Speaker and his team, in trying to protect the Fiji First Government by stifling debate, truth, and facts on issues of national interest that impact lives and livelihood of people.
NFP General Secretary Seni Nabou said the rejection of their party Motions and Questions submitted to the Secretariat and Tables Office proves that parliament under the authority and leadership of the Speaker, is doing the bidding for the Fiji First Government by preventing debate on the floor of parliament on important issues.
“This is no longer a people’s parliament. The people of Fiji no longer have access to parliament to air their concerns through their elected representatives.
If NFP tries to raise matters on the people's behalf, the Speaker, Secretariat and Tables Office scuttle it, before it even reaches the Business Committee for discussion”.
“When questions and motions are put before the Business Committee for approval, the Speaker disallows them on the strength of Government's refusal alone during the meeting, even if he has approved it for the Business Committee to discuss, during the so-called vetting process”.
“It happened yet again today when a Motion by Leader was rejected by the Business Committee because Fiji First opposed it. At least two questions were also ruled out simply because Fiji First opposed them”.
“So basically what this means is that when Government opposes anything brought for debate by the Opposition, the matter is not put on the floor of parliament for debate”.
“However, when Government wants something to be tabled in Parliament, it will be allowed”.
“It renders meaningless Standing Order 125(2) where the Speaker must be satisfied that any determination of the Business Committee fair to all parties and does not discriminate against or oppress a minority party or minority parties”.
“The next sitting of parliament is from Monday 20th September to Friday 24th September. This is the last sitting of parliament for the calendar year, before parliament is prorogued and a new calendar year of sittings begin in November”.
“Next week was the last opportunity this year, for the people's voices of concern to be amplified in the House through their representatives. It was also the last opportunity this year, for the Party to follow up on Government responses to questions raised in earlier sittings, in accordance with the Standing Orders.”.
“The next parliamentary sitting scheduled for November will be devoid of any parliamentary business by the Opposition parties, because it will mainly focus on responses to the President’s speech where he or she opens the new year of sittings, and Government business only”.
“Two Motions were scuttled by the Secretariat and Tables Office upon the decision of the Speaker during vetting”.
“They were on the establishment of special standing committees to firstly inquire into mismanagement, wastage, and pilferage of taxpayers’ funds as highlighted by Reports of the Auditor-General until 2019, and secondly, inquire into the operations and management of municipal councils as well as effectiveness of service delivery to ratepayers”.
“In these proposed motions by NFP, both special committees were to report back to parliament, by February 2022”.
“However those tasked with vetting the agenda, together with the Speaker determined that the Public Accounts Committee was the right Committee to carry out these inquiries, when its true function is toothless, after the Government side railroaded highly restrictive changes to the Standing Orders, in February 2016”.
“Then there are two examples of Questions that were, in our considered opinion, erroneously ruled out of order.
One sought information from the Local Government Minister as to why women are being asked to sell seafood outside the public conveniences at Nausori market. A perfectly legitimate concern that this was conveyed by vendors to NFP MP and Vice President, Hon Lenora Qereqeretabua”.
“The NFP President and MP Hon Pio Tikoduadua also sought to ask the Prime Minister and Minister for Sugar, whether or not investigations into the conduct of a former Fiji Sugar Corporation Executive Chairman/CEO had been completed, following the PM’s answer in February 2019 that investigations were on-going”.
“Both were rejected with the Speaker ruling that these breached Standing Orders. If this is not doing bidding for the Fiji First Government, then what is?”
“The Speaker and his team’s rulings, decisions and actions have rendered Fiji's parliament to Mickey Mouse status. It is basically acting like a comical kangaroo court, instead of exemplifying its proper role as the highest and most important court in the Land where Government is questioned and held accountable, by the people, through their elected representatives”.
"It is a beyond farcical that 15 September, International Democracy day was lauded on the Parliament Facebook page, but the basic tenets of ensuring democratic debate in parliament, are willfully ignored."
“By now, all voters are ready to grant consent only to those who can ensure that this parliamentary facade becomes a thing of the past”.
BELOW: Matrix of NFP Parliamentary business, Parliament’s response, and NFP reply