One Week On

The first parliamentary session saw Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as promised, present the Auditor-General’s reports from 2007 to 2013 and the nomination by the Opposition of NFP’s Dr Biman Prasad as chairman
21 Oct 2014 12:56
One Week On

The first parliamentary session saw Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as promised, present the Auditor-General’s reports from 2007 to 2013 and the nomination by the Opposition of NFP’s Dr Biman Prasad as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee that will vet the reports.

I would expect Dr Prasad to do a very thorough job and avoid point scoring in this role.

The Opposition also announced its shadow ministers, with Prasad shadowing the A-G.

On the sidelines, an announcement that Mick Beddoes is to head Ro Teimimu’s office was something of a surprise because of deserving others who were overlooked and because of the disastrous advice Mr Beddoes offered SODELPA during the election campaign.

But he is coherent and fluent in English which should help the the party leader in and outside the House.


Opposition maiden speeches

-For the most part the reported maiden speeches of the Opposition covered old ground:

– The perceived threats to iTaukei land and rights and the need to amend the Constitution.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum accused Ro Teimumu of reliving the election campaign and SODELPA’s Niko Nawaikula,cautioned three times by the Speaker, obliquely threatened that if the 2013 Constitution was not amended (to include specific iTaukei protections that Government claims are unnecessary because the protections are already there) there would be another coup.

He later said he has said nothing for the sort and now feared for his life following the remarks of the PM.

My reading is that it was not a very subtle cover for the coup threat that had been reiterated many times during the election campaign, and his supposed fear for his life was for public consumption.


Tikoduadua replies

For me, the most decisive maiden speech was made by the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Pio Tikoduadua.

Delivering Government’s right of reply in his maiden speech before the House, Mr Tikoduadua said the Opposition “need some fresh ideas if they are to remain at all relevant to our national debate over the next four years” and not the “politics of division that cost them the election” and was “overwhelmingly rejected by the Fijian people.”

He said they needed to accept their election defeat and “soon see the error of their ways” saying that if they don’t, it was going to be a “long and frustrating four years … The only comfort is that when we gather here again after the 2018 election, there will be fewer of them. Because they have misjudged the iTaukei.

-“What they say about the iTaukei does not resonate with me or any of the iTaukei I know,” Tikoduadua said.

– He particularly mentioned Ro Teimumu’s speech, saying that instead of using the opportunity to propose new ideas, “she chose to fight the General Election all over again, resurrecting some of the main themes of her campaign [including] her claim that the iTaukei are somehow disadvantaged in the new Fiji when the opposite is true and they have never been stronger.”

“The Opposition must come to terms with the fact that it was their politics of division that cost them the election.

“They need … fresh ideas that are relevant to the lives of every Fijian.

And they need to tell the truth in this Parliament, the truth that they didn’t tell during the election campaign.”


Tikoduadua: “It is not true”

Tikoduadua said the Opposition parroted “the same old negative chant – of the iTaukei people threatened when they’re not, Christianity threatened when it’s not”.

“It is not true to say that the iTaukei have been weakened when we have guaranteed ownership of our land more than ever before – more than 90 per cent – and more opportunities than ever before.

“It is not true to say that our identity has been stolen when an English name that only came with the English is used to describe every other citizen.

“We are all citizens of our beloved Fiji, and as such we are all Fijians and the Opposition need to learn to accept that.

“It is not true that the right of we Christians to worship Our Lord Jesus Christ or Catholics to honour Mary and the Saints publicly or privately is threatened by the provision of a secular state in our Constitution.

It is guaranteed, along with other freedoms, yet the Christian fundamentalists sitting opposite still try to stir up division.

“It is not true to say that our strength as a people has weakened just because some of our institutions have been reformed. On the contrary, the strength of our identity and capability as the iTaukei derives from us as a people.

“It is not true to say that there will be another coup unless the Constitution is changed.

“And it is an outrageous abuse of the privilege afforded by this Chamber for the opposition member opposite to have made such a threat.

“The Constitution will not be changed, except by the Constitutional provisions, and any insurrection will be addressed decisively.

By the same token, it is hypocritical of the honourable whip of the Opposition to comment on the provisions of immunity in the 2013 Constitution when he himself was a beneficiary of similar provisions in the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions for the events of 1987.

“It is not true that expatriates are taking the jobs of qualified Fijians in our economy, in which we need the best people to take Fiji forward. We will not force the pace of localisation if it means degrading our capability as a nation.

“And it is not true that Fijians have never been more divided, as yet another Opposition member claimed in his maiden speech.”


An Opposition speech applauded

For me, the most appealing maiden speech was by Mosese Bulitavu, imprisoned for speaking his mind during the Bainimarama Government tenure.

He said, “If Fiji is to progress and for us to be long remembered as the 50 Members of Parliament that truly united Fiji, we must break down all barriers and embrace each other’s differences … I plead to each one of us to reach across the racial, cultural and religious barriers and make this work. I am inspired to say that Yes We Can and Yes We Will. “ — Fiji Sun.

Some expressed concerns about SODELPA maiden speeches, saying that they should have been vetted first. One hopes they did not include the speech by Mr Bulitavu.



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