Why we stayed out
Monday 8th February 2021
Today in Parliament NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad tried to ask an urgent question about the deportation of Professor Pal Ahluwalia. The question was:
Can the Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration inform Parliament of the specific breaches of section 13 of the Immigration Act committed by Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Ms Sandra Price?
Under Parliament’s rules (Standing Order 43) a Member of Parliament may ask an urgent question if the question is of urgent character the it relates to a matter of public importance.
The Speaker, however, refused the question. He ruled that it was not urgent and it was not important.
Last week the Fiji First Government, for petty and vengeful reasons and in the dead of night, detained the leader of the South Pacific’s leading regional institution, the University of the South Pacific. It then threw him out of the country a few hours later.
Fiji’s credibility as a leading state in the South Pacific region is at stake. So is the future of USP, where thousands of Fiji students study. USP is an institution which has trained thousands more Fiji citizens over 50 years. Fiji’s shaky reputation for basic human rights has once again been called into question all over the world.
How can the Speaker say that these questions are not urgent or important?
The Speaker said that Parliament must “respect the doctrine of separation of powers.” He did not explain what he meant. Is he saying that Parliament cannot question the Government? But that is one of the main reasons that Parliament exists. Parliament is there to check on and question the actions of the government in power and the way it behaves.
NFP is issuing a public statement because its MPs are not allowed to. Under the Standing Orders of Parliament (No 29A) its MPs may not communicate directly with the people through a press release while Parliament is sitting. Imagine – the representatives of the people may not tell the people about what is happening in their own Parliament!
Fiji’s citizens must understand how their Parliament works while it is controlled by the Fiji First Party. The Speaker’s ruling sends out a clear message: Even the place where the people send their elected representatives – the Parliament – may not question the Fiji First Government.
This is what the Fiji First Party calls “true democracy.” And this is why our MPs walked out today and stayed out of Parliament for the whole day.
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