NEWS

Rules On Maiden Speeches

Our parliamentary rules on maiden speeches spelt out by Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni yesterday follow the traditions of other democracies. There may be slight technical variations from country to country
17 Oct 2014 09:35
Rules On Maiden Speeches
Speaker of the House Dr Jiko Luveni. Photo: DEPTFO

Our parliamentary rules on maiden speeches spelt out by Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni yesterday follow the traditions of other democracies.

There may be slight technical variations from country to country but they operate in the same spirit.

The Westminster system in Britain’s House of Commons uses a convention that  maiden speeches should be relatively uncontroversial so as to not attract interjections, often consisting of a general statement of the politician’s beliefs and background rather than a partisan comment on a topical issue.

Usually regarded as the cradle of democracy, Britain with its Westminster model is point of reference by many countries including Fiji.

Dr Luveni has been prompted to spell out the maiden speech convention after SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula shocked Parliament with his maiden speech which was clearly a breach of the convention. Mr Nawaikula opened his maiden speech  by saying: “Coming here on the very first day of parliament the feeling that I had was that of anger and animosity towards the members of the other side of the House.

“And rightly so, because for the first time I am coming face to face with the members of a government I hold responsible for suppressing the rights of the native people of this country.

“I despised them because indigenous group right touches on the very essence of my cultural identity.”

Mr Nawaikula went on to warn that unless the Constitution was amended to include, among other things, indigenous issues, it was Parliament invitation for another coup.

Dr Luveni yesterday reminded MPs that under the convention, it was “highly undesirable for their speech to contain controversial and provocative material.” She added that as far as possible their speech should be relevant to the content of the President’s opening speech.

“So far I believe the chair has been very tolerant in this regard and it would be regrettable at this stage of the debate if the chair was forced to invoke the provision of Standing Order 67 and direct a member to terminate their speech,” she said.

There is also a strong convention in some countries that maiden speeches should not be subjected to interruption or interjection and should not be attacked or dismissed by subsequent speakers.

Under the Standing Orders the Speaker has the authority to stop interjections.

Because this is a new Parliament, MPs will have to get used to the provisions of the  Standing Orders.

Yesterday, SODELPA MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu posed some Ebola questions to the Government side. Leader of Government business Pio Tikoduadua said they needed time to respond.

After the morning tea break, Dr Luveni told the House that Ratu Naiqama was out of order asking the question. Under the Standing Orders, no questions are allowed during the duration of the maiden speeches.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

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