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EDITORIAL: Opposition Needs To Smarten Up

The Opposition have learned the hard way that bringing the Speaker of Parliament into disrepute will cost them dearly. However, staying away from Parliament yesterday did not help their cause.
23 May 2015 10:09
EDITORIAL: Opposition Needs To Smarten Up

The Opposition have learned the hard way that bringing the Speaker of Parliament into disrepute will cost them dearly. However, staying away from Parliament yesterday did not help their cause.

The empty seats in Parliament yesterday spoke volumes. Parliamentarians are not elected to boycott Parliament. It was an opportune time to bounce back from the loss of their colleague Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

They should have showed some solidarity and turned up to debate the Companies Bill and table their questions to relevant Government Ministers. In fact, it was their day, when the Government minimises its business in Parliament and allows the Opposition to take a lead in putting Government ministries under scrutiny.

In his recent visit, New Zealand Speaker of Parliament David Carter commented that one of the essential pillars of parliamentary democracy was a robust Opposition.

How the Fijian Opposition intends to carry these sentiments out given its current behaviour is anyone’s guess.

Perhaps the stinging rebukes from the female Government MPs this week on the poor conduct of Ratu Naiqama finally hit home. Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Rosy Akbar, Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment Lorna Eden all criticised Ratu Naiqama’s use of slurs against the Speaker to Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni.

It was a show of force from the Government against cultural relativism that rationalises the abuse of women in whatever form, be it verbal, emotional or physical.

Indeed, there is much to reflect on for both sides of Parliament.

Women need to be respected. Opposition MP Semesa Karavaki tried to downplay the incident saying it was not a gender issue. Our question to him is, how can it not be?

Indeed, the Opposition are a bundle of contradictions at the moment.  They often talk about Christian values and quote biblical scriptures to justify their arguments.

However, coarse joking and denigrating comments about the first female Speaker to Parliament, within a church setting, is passed off as jest.

They talk about the chiefly system and ‘vakaturaga,’ the unwritten code of code for chiefly behaviour and protocol.

However, they seem to have little regard for the Speaker herself, a chief-like figure in the highest house of the land.

This was quite evident when they walked out while she was giving her closing remarks on Thursday night after the marathon debate.

This type of behaviour would be unthinkable in a court of law and within a traditional iTaukei cultural setting.

Hopefully, the Opposition can come up with a new plan for the next sitting of Parliament in July.  This plan should include more effective scrutiny of Government programmes and ministries.

Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum  said the Opposition missed a chance yesterday to contribute to the Companies, one of the landmark legislation passed by this Parliament. Missing any more sessions would beg the question.

How seriously does the Opposition take its role?

Feedback:  josuat@fijisun.com.fj

 




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