Opinion

Two Worrying Mistakes By The Opposition Raises Serious Questions

It is the responsibility of the Opposition to question Government, but they must be based on solid grounds and supported by factual information
20 May 2019 12:38
Two Worrying Mistakes By The Opposition Raises Serious Questions
Opposition Leader, Sitiveni Rabuka and Opposition Whip, Lynda Tabuya

Opinion:

No one begrudges the Opposition right to challenge the Government on issues of national importance. But with it comes responsibility.

The Opposition in Parliament shares equal responsibility with Government to speak the truth with all sincerity and without guile and hypocrisy.

It owes this to the people who gave its MPs the mandate to speak on their behalf and on matters of national interest.

The responsibility of the Opposition is to question Government on issues that it is genuinely concerned about and are in the public or national interest.

It is not misused for political grandstanding to score cheap political points.

It means when it opposes a Government motion it is based on solid grounds supported by factual information.

When it introduces a motion or asks questions they should be based on facts. This is not the first time I have raised this issue.

It is being highlighted again because of two incidents that happened in Parliament.

One was Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya’s attempt to get Parliament to discuss the ATS dispute with the union when the matter is still before the court.

Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau was right when he disallowed it because it was sub judice.

This was not the first time it had been brought up in the House. The general rule is that we cannot discuss any case before the court in or outside of Parliament to preserve the independence of the judiciary. A breach constitutes contempt of court.

The rule upholds the doctrine of the separation of power – between the legislature (Parliament) and the judiciary, two important pillars of democracy.

While Parliament enjoys a special privilege, it is not an open licence to attack the other organs of the state.

That is why Parliament will not entertain any discussion on any case before the court. Any criticism of the court is indirectly an attack on democracy.

The second case was the decision by Ratu Epeli to rule out a call by Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka to refer Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to the privileges committee for allegedly misleading Parliament on the waiver of tender processes.

The Hansard had clearly recorded that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had said: “I cannot waive procurement regulations. The regulations allow me to waive certain processes”.

Mr Rabuka told Parliament these statements were blatant lies and that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had misled Parliament. He had misinterpreted what the A-G said. He thought Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had said he could waive procurement regulations.

The fact that Mr Rabuka also made a similar mistake in the April sitting of Parliament raises a serious question. Who vets Mr Rabuka’s statement before he releases it in Parliament?

The same question can also be asked in Ms Tabuya’s case.

The Opposition has enough lawyers on its side to do a thorough check before issues are presented.

There is no room for this kind of oversight in the present environment in Parliament. Ratu Epeli has set the standards from day one since he became Speaker. It’s up to both sides of the House to comply with those standards.
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