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Speaker Dr Luveni Lifts Parliament To New Level

Speaker Dr Luveni Lifts Parliament To New Level
Speaker of Parliament Jiko Luveni meets a student during ‘Meet the Speaker’ programme. Photo: Parliament of Fiji
September 20
13:38 2017

Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni turns 72 soon.

But she is not showing any sign of slowing down.

In fact she is still going strong as ever.

As she heads into the final year of the current term of this parliamentary year, Dr Luveni can look back with satisfaction and pride at her achievement in steering this Parliament to where it is today. She is a trailblazer in her own right, the first woman to be Speaker. And she went in with no previous parliamentary experience.

What’s her future plan? She has ruled out contesting the 2018 election. She would be an ideal candidate given her impressive record as Women’s minister and now Speaker. If she is offered a second term as Speaker, she would accept it.

It appears she has unfinished business.

A lot has been achieved so far by the Fijian Parliament. This has been recognised by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which is impressed by the amazing progress it has made. It has become an example to parliaments from other jurisdictions because of the innovative ways it has introduced to get people to understand the democratic process and how Parliament works.

On Monday, in a one on one interview, she seemed modest about her achievements.

As recent as early this month in Bali, Indonesia, 49 countries applauded the progress by the Fijian Parliament on the domestic and international fronts.

In a two-day forum, they talked about promoting sustainable development in their respective nations.

The theme was “World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development-Achieving the 2030 Agenda through Inclusive Development”.

In her presentation, Dr Luveni stressed the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote a viable and healthier economy. Issues she raised included:

  •   Mandatory requirement to analyse public input through gender lenses to ensure that issues pertaining to women empowerment are given due consideration.
  •   Fijian Parliament has informally selected committee Members of Parliament to become SDG champions in Parliament to ensure the acronym SDG and their targets continue to be heard during debates in all Parliament sittings.
  •  The Fijian Parliament diaries and notebooks include a page outlining all SDGs to be used as a tool reminding all the Members of the 17 SDGs.
  •   Also, included in the introductory pages are Fiji’s demographic indicators reflecting male or female Members by age groups. This tool is available to all MPs at all times particularly, to measure effective progress on development programmes and sufficiency of the budgets allocated.
  •   Success of the Speaker’s Debate. It has been attracting thousands of Fijians who actively participate in a bid to question its panellists, particularly Ministers on the progress of the implementation of the SDGs in their line ministries.
  •  Shared some Fijian Government’s policies and initiatives on eradicating poverty, unemployment, and promoting education.

She did not mention her initiative in taking Parliament to the people in a series of road shows and inviting schools and members of the public to come and visit Parliament.

Dr Luveni was also the co-chair of the Open-Ended Consultation on the Draft Bali Declaration-“Achieving the 2030 Agenda through Inclusive Development” which was adopted on the last day of the forum.

A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Parliaments of  Indonesia and Fiji to allow the two countries to work together and exchange knowledge and information, and also assist each other in achieving SDGs.

Reflections

She said she had learned a lot in the three years. She is now more conversant with the rules and procedures of Parliament. She said her role was to maintain the respect and dignity of the House. The proceedings were governed by the parliamentary process which was stipulated in the Standing Orders.

If the outcomes did not go the MPs’ way, they tended to blame the Speaker. She said she didn’t have powers to change or contribute to what was said in Parliament.

When the decisions of the committees are tabled in the House, she cannot contribute to the debate.

Although she came from FijiFirst, she said it was not a challenge.

“When I sit there I follow the rules and procedures as stipulated by the Standing Orders,” she said.

“It becomes a challenge  when MPs especially FijiFirst MPs start shouting what I should decide in my ruling. I don’t want to be pressured into making a decision,” she said.

She said MPs knew their Standing Orders. There seemed to be a perception that she favoured Government.

“The Opposition is more likely to go outside of the rules when emotions come in. That is why I rule. It is perceived that I am siding with Government.

“When the Government side breaks the rules I also address that issue with them. More times by the Opposition because they make more noises.

“I only make a ruling In Parliament  on issues I know I am able to change in parliament so that if there is a member of parliament abusing another I can change it by saying withdraw what you have just said.If someone calls someone a liar , I will say withdraw.

“When they start making racist coments or anti religious comments, it’s the members of Parliament who should correct them”.

She said what needed to be realised was that there were people watching and listening and could easily be influenced.

The privileges committee investigated the issues and it recommended what penalty should be imposed.

“I have no authority to change what has been recommended and approved in Parliament.

“These cases continue , it’s not just one time .It has been happening for some sittings and in those cases Government has to say enough is enough and we have to stop it”.

Some say democracy is restricted because of the new rules. Do you think that we now have true democracy?

“We have reached a level which we have not reached before .The level of democracy is higher than before I reckon.

“We are now a people of one nation, we have reached that high where people are happy and they know they belong to this nation”.

As a woman, do you think this has been a challenge for you?

“Yes. Not only a challenge but a golden opportunity for women in the  country to see that a woman can also perform  as a leader in the capacity of the Speaker leading the Legislature.Previously,  women do not believe that they can play a role at leadership level.

This has been the golden opportunity to show all the women that we can serve as leaders”.

How do you rate your roadshows and community engagement

“When I visit the communities as the Speaker I am surprised that they are in awe that I visited them when in fact   when I was a Minister for Women I visited them a lot.  When I visit them now, they look at me  differently. They think this role is higher than the role I played as Minister for Women”.

“They are very appreciative especially when they have not had previous Speakers that went to communities  and link them up to Parliament .

“Parliament belongs to the people and they choose the members of Parliament.

So when  the  next election comes they know who to vote for.

Feedback:nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

Tomorrow: Concluding Part

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