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Analysis: Speaker Clears Air On Special Sitting

Analysis: Speaker Clears Air On Special Sitting
The Speaker of Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni.
August 31
12:12 2018

Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni said last night that she set the date of the special sitting of Parliament this morning after consultation with the Government.

She said all the processes under the Standing Orders to appoint the President were followed and she could not understand what the Opposition fuss was about.

She said in the past Parliament had convened sittings at short notice. She cited the special sitting for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The NFP MPs attended but SODELPA  MPs boycotted it.

She was responding to criticisms from SODELPA and NFP.

The two parties had over-reacted on an issue they knew they would never win because of FijiFirst’s overwhelming majority in Parliament. They would have put the energy for better use in their election campaign.

To make matters worse the NFP dissociated itself from the Opposition statement prepared by SODELPA MPs saying it was not consulted. Again the NFP showed that it did not want to be identified with SODELPA as long as Sitiveni Rabuka is at the helm because of the perceived negative political repercussions.

The Opposition Office expressed its “gross disappointment and deep concern on fast tracking of the process” to appoint the next President when there was time until October to do that.

“We see no warranted reason to rush the process and strongly believe there needs to be consensus building on the matter given the President is the head of the state symbolising the unity of the nation and also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces,” its statement said.

“The Opposition is also of the view that following the declaration made by the Fiji Court of Appeal in April, 2009 in ABU007 of 2009 that the 1997 Constitution, which was done with wider consultation with the people of Fiji, is still the supreme law of Fiji and the Bose Levu Vakaturaga must have the right to choose the Head of State.

“There should have been wider consultation and more time allowed before taking such an important and far reaching decision. The SODELPA Caucus is having its consultation and we will be there with our candidate in Parliament tomorrow (today).”

Meanwhile the NFP says it is deeply disappointed at the total lack of consensus and dialogue between Government and the Opposition as well as the main Opposition party of SODELPA with NFP.

NFP Leader, Professor Barman Prasad says apart from what he called the flawed process in convening parliament, the total lack of consultation to achieve unanimity on a single candidate for the Office of the President between Government and the Opposition as well as SODELPA and NFP does not augur well. He adds the President as Head of State symbolises national unity and harmony.

“On a matter of highest significance to Fiji, Government has ignored the Opposition, despite the constitutional provisions allowing both sides to nominate a candidate”.

“Yet on the issue of exorbitantly increasing parliamentary allowances for MPs and per diems for the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, both Fiji First and SODELPA demonstrated bipartisanship on 29th September 2016”.

“This is the kind of parliamentary democracy we have witnessed since October 2014, culminating into a façade where less than 48 hours’ notice was given to MPs to attend parliament to appoint the President who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Army”.

“We also make it clear that we disassociate ourselves from a statement issued by the Opposition Office today. We were not part of any discussions on the Opposition’s position and are not even aware of whom SODELPA’s nominee will be”.

“Similarly, we do not know who the Prime Minister will nominate for Presidency.

“We will attend parliament tomorrow because our voters expect us to represent them in the People’s House. While we would like to see our current President be nominated for a second term because he is eligible for re-appointment, provided he is willing to serve as our Head of State for another three years, we also do not know who Government’s nominee will be”.

“We will make our position known in Parliament tomorrow.”

What does it all mean? More evidence of NFP distancing itself from SODELPA under Sitiveni Rabuka’s leadership.

And plenty of Opposition grandstanding as elections near.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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