Opinion

Real Test For Commission Is Members Working Together

Moves are afoot to formalise the membership of the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC). The President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, will soon announce three new members. The other members are the chairperson,
17 Jan 2015 12:31
Real Test For Commission Is Members Working Together
Leader of the Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa,

Moves are afoot to formalise the membership of the Constitutional Offices Commission (COC).

The President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, will soon announce three new members.

The other members are the chairperson, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Leader of the Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa and the Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. The secretary is the Solicitor-General Sharvada Sharma.

Ratu Epeli will appoint the new members on the advice of Mr Bainimarama who will nominate two and Ro Teimumu will nominate the third.

The two leaders are keeping the names of their nominees close to their chest. The nominees are expected to be people loyal to their respective political ideologies. Mr Bainimarama has Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and Mr Sharma to provide legal opinion and advice. Ro Teimumu can also seek advice from Mr Sharma. But she may feel inclined to go for an independent legal advice, one that fits her political agenda.

Ro Teimumu will mostly likely nominate a person who has the capacity to stand up to the might of the dynamic duo of Mr Bainimarama and Mr Sayed-Khaiyum. Someone with legal background would be an asset to deal with complicated legal issues. It’s unlikely she will nominate a member of Parliament because the Constitution stipulates that a public office holder cannot be an MP at the same time. The MP would lose his seat.

The COC is an august body that advises Ratu Epeli who appoints people to key leadership positions in the country.

One would expect the conduct of the members during deliberations to be civil and dignified, everyone contributing in the national interest.

But as we have seen so far in the brief life of our new Parliament, interpretations of what national interest means differ. If it extends to bodies such as the COC, then we can expect some frank and open discussions.  While that may be healthy, at the end of the day they must agree on what is best for the nation.

When the COC finally convenes, it will have to set the rules of engagement. The Constitution says; “the commission may regulate its own procedure and may make such rules and regulations as it deems fit for regulating and facilitating the performance of its functions.”

Some of the issues include whether COC decisions are reached through consensus or by majority vote. Government will be represented by four (not counting the Solicitor-General) while the Opposition will have two members. On this count, Government will always have an advantage. The quorum is three, which is the chairperson and two members.

The COC is independent and “shall not be subject to the direction of any person or authority, except by a court of law or as otherwise prescribed by written law.”

The real test for the COC is whether the Government and Opposition members can work together.

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 




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