Opinion | Politics

Jyoti Pratibha: Not Again! Opposition MPs Walk Out Is Unacceptable

Why should the Opposition be allowed to walk out at their whim? This behaviour, if left unpunished, will encourage this group to use this silly tactic every single time something does not go their way.
19 Feb 2020 10:34
Jyoti Pratibha: Not Again! Opposition MPs Walk Out Is Unacceptable
From left: Opposition Members of Parliament Mikaele Leawere, Aseri Radodoro, Mosese Bulitavu (back facing camera), Viliame Qavoka and Biman Prasad in Opposition Chambers after walking out of Parliament on February 18, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Opinion:

The decision by the Opposition Members from SODELPA and the National Federation Party to walk out, once again, is unacceptable.

It was disrespectful to the Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, a breach of trust their voters put in them and an enormous disrespect and dishonour to the House.

Why should the Opposition be allowed to walk out at their whim? This behaviour, if left unpunished, will encourage this group to use this silly tactic every single time something does not go their way.

While the Speaker may try to play down this silliness, the Fijian taxpayer who pays their salary needs to stand up and ask what were they really paid for yesterday.

The government needs to bring forth a motion to take Opposition Members to the task.

What led to this walkout?

Opposition Members have no one but only themselves to blame for bringing forth ill-thought out, poorly written, sub judice petitions to Parliament.

This is not the first time Opposition MPs have been schooled on how to table a petition and what can and cannot be in a petition.

They have been told at least five times previously by the Speaker what cannot be tabled in Parliament and he has given his reasons behind it.

But, Opposition MPs have continued to disregard that advice.

They have continued to bring forth petitions, which were on matters either before the court, or already with one of the committees, and have even put forth petitions, withdrawn it, only to try to table it again. Is this all some big joke to this bunch?

Now, when they table such petitions in Parliament, of course it would be thrown out by the Speaker. It is a no brainer.

Opposition members have three lawyers among them and a law graduate. Lawyers are Lynda Tabuya, Adi Litia Qioninbaravii and Niko Nawaikula while Mosese Bulitavu is a law graduate.

Surely they do not lack the resources to put together a decent motion and petition.

If they are really so incompetent, they can always take on board the pointers the Speaker has given them over the months.

What was the deal with the petitions yesterday?

Two petitions tabled by Ms Tabuya were withdrawn by her. What an anti-climax to all the hoopla on social media.

The petition by Viliame Gavoka to stop mining in Nasigatoka was decided by the Speaker.

He first made the ruling that every petition should have signatures collected physically and not only collected online. He gave thorough reasons for it. He stressed that it was important that the signatures were verifiable.

Speaker Ruled:

The petition was from Mr Gavoka on behalf of the people of the Tikina Nasigatoka against the plan to mine Magnetite at the mouth of the Sigatoka river.

This petition requested that Parliament “refer to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources to conduct a holistic inquiry into the planned mining of the Sigatoka River mouth with the view to protect the interests and well-being of the people of the Tikina Nasigatoka and surrounding communities”.

Ratu Epeli said: “My first observation in relation to this petition is that it does not specify whether the issue in contention is the authority of the director responsible for mines to grant a mining lease under which the mining activities are being conducted, or if the issue in contention is the general mining activities of any company that may be holding a lease or permit at this time.

“That said, it is my ruling that regardless of the issue of contention, this petition cannot be tabled in Parliament as in each instance it seeks action which is not within the powers of Parliament to take.

“Firstly, if the issue in contention is the authority upon which such mining activities have been sanctioned, I must reiterate my earlier rulings in relation to petitions in Parliament where I have emphasised the need to ensure that Parliament upholds and respects the constitutional separation of powers between the three Arms of the State, that being the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive.

“It is not for Parliament to direct or instruct the exercise of the Executive Authority when a written law expressly gives the power and authority to the Executive, whether a minister or a public officer, to make decisions under any such law.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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