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SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 15, 1999 - PACNEWS/Fiji Times)---The first joint sitting of Fiji's Parliament Monday has been described as unconstitutional by the Opposition.

The Opposition has sought legal advice and plans to file papers in court today to declare the sitting null and void.

The Opposition is made up of the former ruling Soqosoqo Ni Vakavulewa Party, which argues that the sitting should not have gone ahead without eight members of the Upper House. The Opposition leader, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, had submitted his nominees for Senate but the list was reportedly rejected by the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Government defended the rejection of his list, saying the eight nominees should have been shared among the SVT and other political parties represented in the Lower House.

The other parties are the ruling coalition partners. They are the Labour Party, the Fijian Association Party, the Party of National Unit and the Fijian Nationalists Vanua Tako Lavo Party.

A legal adviser to the Opposition said Parliament consisted of the President and the Upper and Lower Houses.

He said Monday's meeting was unconstitutional because not all 32 members of the Upper House were present. Only 24 attended the swearing-in ceremony.

The Attorney General, Anand Singh, said despite the fact that not all members of the Upper House were present, standing orders allowed the sitting once a quorum was achieved.

"I will need more than just a claim to respond. At this stage, it is too vague for me," Singh said.

Leader of Government business, Joeli Kalou, echoed the same sentiments saying the constitution requires Parliament to sit 30 days after the general election.

The official opening of Fiji's Parliament went ahead this morning despite a court action threat by the Opposition.


SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 15, 1999 - PACNEWS)---Fiji's President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara says two crucial challenges for the new Government include the further strengthening of the bond of unity among the country's multi-ethnic community and to provide economic growth and social progress.

Opening the new session of Parliament in Suva, Ratu Sir Kamisese said, "These challenges are to be undertaken with a strong sense of justice to ensure development benefits all in our society, including the poor, the disadvantaged, and all those who, through no fault of their own, need the helping hand of the State.

"Government will implement affirmative action and social justice programs to secure for all citizens and communities equal and equitable access to opportunities, amenities and services to better their lives," he told the joint session of Parliament.

Ratu Sir Kamisese also announced that Government would establish an independent Education Commission to review the current system of education in Fiji and set up a loan scheme for students wanting to pursue tertiary studies.

On law and order, he said Government would continue to make the fight against crime a top priority.

"The Government will seek to raise Police morale by improving their working conditions, and, in return, will demand a higher degree of discipline and professionalism."

On labor relations, Ratu Sir Kamisese said Government would undertake a comprehensive review of existing labor legislation.

"To ensure economic and social justice for the people, Government is committed to a minimum national living wage to support a reasonable standard of living."

He also announced plans to establish a national health insurance scheme in conjunction with the Fiji National Provident Fund.

The President paid tribute to the work done by the outgoing Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and former Leader of the Opposition, Jai Ram Reddy.

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