Dr Luveni: People Tell Us MPs Behave Like Children

Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni says people think MPs behave like children. That’s a common response when the public is asked what they think of the live telecast of
21 Sep 2017 14:45
Dr Luveni: People Tell Us MPs Behave Like Children
Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni.

Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni says people think MPs behave like children.

That’s a common response when the public is asked what they think of the live telecast of Parliament proceedings.

Here’s the second part of a three-part series of a Fiji Sun interview with Dr Luveni.

Fiji Sun: In your talanoa session with people in their various communities, what do they say about parliament proceedings, beamed live on television?

Dr Luveni: “One very common question people ask me is why do MPs act like children the way they debate in Parliament – the shouting at each other, interjections and being rowdy. So I take video clips about what happens in other Parliaments overseas.

When I play these videos which are worse than what happens in this Parliament, they understand.

This is how Parliaments work when you have opposition. In one Parliament an MP walked across to the opposite side and punched another MP. Thank God we have not descended to that level.

We are not that rowdy as other parliaments are.

But the people expect very high standards from us. They don’t expect our Parliamentarians to be shouting at each other.

Fiji Sun: Do they ask what your role in that is?

Dr Luveni: Well, I tell them emotions run high and that is natural for human beings. You know I can’t just tell them where to stop.

When emotions run high I allow Parliamentarians to have a go at each other and argue and clarify things among themselves. I allow that to happen before I control it or before I stand up.

Fiji Sun: When do you think they have gone over the limit?

Dr Luveni: I give them a few minutes…they argue and point at each other about 1 or 1.5 minutes they have aired their views they have let off steam on that issue so I stand up and say no I think that’s enough.

Fiji Sun: Apart from arguing in parliament, what are the other issues people raise in Parliament about what they see?

Dr Luveni: Some blame the Speaker for decisions made in Parliament – like the penalties imposed on the Parliamentarians who have been suspended.

The way they look at me when we meet suggests they blame me.

Then they ask that question. When I clarify the issue to them that I have no authority on this, they understand. They relax and become more open and participate in the meetings.

They only react because they don’t know the rules. They don’t know why these rules have been put in place.

Fiji Sun: Do people appreciate the live broadcast?

Dr Luveni: Very much. Some of them tell me they hurry up with all their work before they settle in and watch it. They learn a lot. They know the developments that are happening in Fiji, maybe not in their areas but other areas. They give some ideas as to how they can approach Parliamentarians to visit them.

People they voted for represent them in Parliament and they should be comfortable in approaching them.

Fiji Sun: The secretary general position has been re-advertised, is that normal?

Dr Luveni:  Yes, very normal because she had a three-year contract which has expired. It applies to other civil servants.

Right now they have not completed the process. In the interim the secretary- general’s contract has been extended for a few more weeks.

The incumbent re-applied.

Fiji Sun: Whether you will be there or not, what does the future hold for Parliament after the election?

Dr Luveni: When this Parliament convened for the first time in 2014, 88 per cent of the MPs had never had any parliamentary experience.

I had never been Speaker myself and had never been a Member of Parliament before.

So we were all learning as we went along but now I think I have learned a lot and am experienced in the role of Speaker.

The MPs themselves are very experienced now and you can’t say they are not learning.

The next Parliament should flow depending on the new members. Those new members have been watching the sittings and learning a lot from the sittings and what is expected from them.

So it will be an easier transition from the old Parliament to the new Parliament.

Fiji Sun: If you do not return to the House as Speaker, do you have any alternative plans?

Dr Luveni: I just want to stay put and find myself something to do.

Fiji Sun: Do you think that MPs have risen to the standards that you have set for Parliament?

Dr Luveni: Very much. They know that certain behaviour should not have happened. They do it to try me out…that makes life in Parliament interesting. They are not trying me out in Parliament as much as they used to.

Fiji Sun: You over-ruled MPs on both sides of the House. Do you find it awkward when it is a Government MP?

Dr Luveni: No it’s not and I am just following the rules. The Govt. understands that they know the rules themselves.

Fiji Sun: Seminars and workshops are happening all the time For MPs from both sides of the House. Are we seeing the results?

Dr Luveni: The capacity building is going on here and overseas. A lot of capacity building training is just to strengthen their roles in Parliament, when we find there is a weakness. The training helps, for example, the business committee on the wording of motions that is acceptable to Parliament.

The training is done through UNDP and we get technical assistance from other Parliaments. People have come from Wales, Canada, Australia, NZ, etcetera, to conduct training.

Fiji Sun: How do other Parliaments rate us?

Dr Luveni: We had the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association secretary-general who said he is amazed at what the Parliament of Fiji has achieved so far given that  we only had our elections in 2014.

It’s the way we have played our role in Parliament not only inside but outside as well. The Parliament is contributing to national development.

This achievement here is seen as an example for other Parliaments to learn from.

When I have been given an opportunity at international conferences to speak I share what we do here.


To be continued tomorrow


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