Opinion

Posthumous Award For Late Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni

The late Dr Jiko Luveni gets my vote for a posthumous award for the Top Woman of the Year. The country’s first woman Speaker of Parliament grew up in an
24 Dec 2018 14:30
Posthumous Award For Late Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni
The late Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni.

The late Dr Jiko Luveni gets my vote for a posthumous award for the Top Woman of the Year.

The country’s first woman Speaker of Parliament grew up in an era when women usually played a subservient role to men and the term gender balance or women empowerment was not an integral part of the national conversation like we do today.

 

Dr Luveni’s works

Dr Luveni earned the distinction of being, what is believed, to be the first Fijian woman to graduate in dentistry and work as a dentist. She also worked for the United Nations Population Fund as a project manager for reproductive health. Then she took up a post as the HIV project officer for the Ministry of Health.

She also made her name in sports as a women’s champion in table tennis and golf. Dr Luveni represented Fiji in three South Pacific Games in both events.

She was a member of the board on the Fiji Sports Council and the Tripartite Appeals Committee of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committees (FASANOC).

 

Joining Government

She joined the interim Government of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama after the 2006 takeover as Minister for Health before becoming Minister for Welfare, Women and Poverty Alleviation. She was co-chair of a Government task force set up to make recommendations regarding “social cultural identity and nation building” for the proposed People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress.

She was elected as chairperson of the Lau Provincial Council, believed to be the first woman to hold the post, replacing Filipe Bole.

But she stepped down after she announced that she was contesting the 2014 General Election on a FijiFirst ticket. She was replaced by Ilisoni Taoba.

As Minister for Women, she was credited with reaching out to the women in rural and maritime areas, donating sewing machines and rocket stoves to stimulate women to start their own business.

It culminated in the setting up of the National Women’s Expo, which has now become an annual event. The expo provides a platform for women to showcase their talents and to help generate income for their families.

She became the face of women and was popular among them because of her common touch.

 

Her role as Speaker of Parliament

When she became Speaker after the 2014 General Election, she carried those same qualities into Parliament. Ascending to the Speaker’s chair with no previous experience was not for the faint-hearted.

She had to learn the Standing Orders, she once described as Parliament’s bible, quickly because she was constantly tested by the legal eagles from both sides of the House, particularly from the Opposition. But she did a remarkable job in standing her ground under extreme pressure, sometimes delicately walking the tight rope to ensure that she was seen to be fair to both sides.

She copped a lot of flak when SODELPA MPs Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, Ratu Isoa Tikoca and former National Federation Party MP Tupou Draunidalo (now HOPE leader) were suspended from Parliament. Her critics did not understand that the Privileges Committee, comprising members from both sides of the House, decide the fate of MPs who breach parliamentary rules.

Undeterred, she stuck to her high standards she had set from the beginning. In the end she gained a lot of respect from both sides of the House.

Even NFP leader Biman Prasad, who had clashes with Dr Luveni on a number of occasions paid tribute to her for her contribution to Fiji, Parliament and humanity.

She spearheaded the raising of the profile of Parliament, as an institution, by taking it to the people through roadshows.

 

Respected internationally

Internationally, she was recognised and invited to speak at inter-parliamentary conferences on the democratic processes here, based on set goals by the United Nations.

She became the face of Parliament.

More Fijians now know how Parliament works through Dr Luveni.

Three days before her death, she called me and said the new parliamentary press gallery that journalists had been pushing for would be ready in the New Year. She said she hoped it would be ready by the February session of Parliament, otherwise it should be okay for the next session. In hindsight, she probably knew that her end was near and she was sharing the good news with those connected to Parliament.

At 72, Dr Luveni from Nukuni Village, Ono-i-Lau, Lau, has had a good innings. She is survived by husband Inoke Luveni and five children (four from her first marriage with military officer Mikaele Yasa and one with Mr Luveni).

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback:  nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

 

 

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