Analysis | Politics

Why MPs Love Their Standing Committee Commitments

It is understood that some are earning up to $3000 a week. This is in addition to their basic parliamentary salary of $50,000 a year.
11 Sep 2019 11:42
Why MPs Love Their Standing Committee Commitments
L-R: Opposition member Inosi Kuridrani at the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs, Opposition member Ro Filipe Tuisawau at the standing committee on Economic Affairs and Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence member, Dr. Salik Ram Govind on September 10, 2019. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Analysis:

Opposition MPs have no problems boycotting or walking out of Parliament.

But they will not do the same for the Standing Committees they sit in.

This is because their sitting allowances significantly boost their parliamentary earnings.

Their daily allowance is $200 each irrespective of the length of their sitting.

For those who have to travel out of Suva, over a 30-mile radius they get another $300 for accommodation and food. Cost of airfare is reimbursed.

It is understood that some are earning up to $3000 a week.

This is in addition to their basic parliamentary salary of $50,000 a year.

If the total number of committee meetings amounted to 17 weeks a year this group would be earning more than $100,000 plus a year (basic salary plus committee allowance).

After the boycott of Parliament by NFP parliamentarians last week culminating in a walkout by all Opposition MPs, it was a different picture yesterday in the committee meetings.

MPs on both sides of the House were in high spirits as they met for the Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Economic Affairs and Public Accounts.

The committees provide the ideal forum for bipartisanship which the Opposition frequently talks about.

They achieve what Parliament has not been able to do.

Last week the Privileges Committee deliberated on the Bainimarama-Tikoduadua incident and called on both leaders to apologise or face a six-month suspension.

It would have brought to life the concept of bipartisanship if both sides of the House had endorsed it.

Before Mr Bainimarama apologised all the 24 Opposition MPs walked out of Parliament after their motion to suspend Mr Bainimarama for two years was defeated.

An opportunity for reconciliation was lost because it did not suit the Opposition agenda to topple Mr Bainimarama by pushing for a conviction using a criminal law stream.

But it has been shown that bipartisanship has worked in the past.

In a rare occasion in 2017, the SODELPA Opposition supported the Government side’s motion to increase the committee sitting allowance despite a directive from the party president, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, to oppose the motion.

Ratu Naiqama, the Tui Cakau (Paramount chief of Cakaudrove), who was then suspended from Parliament for two years for making derogatory remarks against the late Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni, told the SODELPA caucus to reject the motion.

His reason was that people were still living in tents after Tropical Cyclone Winston and it would insensitive to support an allowance increase when people were still suffering.

MPs had strongly felt that the old allowance was inadequate to meet the cost of their parliamentary work in their electorates.

When Ratu Naiqama returned to Parliament, he also received the new allowance.

The NFP parliamentarians voted against the motion.

The current members of the three committees that met yesterday were:

Standing Committee on Public Accounts:

  • Chair – Alvick Maharaj
  • Deputy Chair- Joseph Nand
  • Vijendra Prakash
  • Aseri Radrodro
  • Reserves- Vijay Nath and Adi Litia Qionibaravi

 

Standing Committee on Economic Affairs:

  • Chair –Vijay Nath
  • Deputy Chair – Veena Bhatnagar
  • George Vegnathan
  • Inosi Kuridrani
  • Ro Filipe Tuisawau
  • Reserves- Rohit Ritesh Sharma and Viliame Gavoka

 

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence:

  • Chair –Alexander O’Connor
  • Deputy Chair – Dr Salik Govind
  • Selai Adimaitoga
  • Pio Tikoduadua (suspended)
  • Anare Jale
  • Reserves- Joseph Nitya Nand and Mikaele Leaware

 

Mr Tikoduadua is suspended and his spot is likely to be taken up by Ms Lenora Qereqeretabua.

After the disappointment of last week in Parliament there is a new buzz among MPs. It’s clear they love the committees.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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