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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 28) – Members of the Fiji Parliament are allowed to drink yaqona [kava] in the Parliamentary Complex, although civil servants are banned from doing likewise at their workplace.

Speaker of the House Ratu Epeli Nailatikau said Parliament regulates itself and the circular sent to civil servants last week by the Public Service Commission didn't apply to parliamentarians.

"Parliament regulates itself, that is the short answer to your question," said Ratu Epeli. He was responding to queries on whether the same sort of rules banning the consumption of yaqona at the workplace in government departments, also applied to parliamentarians who were often seen consuming yaqona at the Parliamentary Complex.

Public Service Commission chief executive Anare Jale said the circular, which was sent out last week to all government departments, was for civil servants only.

"The rules referred to in the circular only apply to civil servants because a different set of rules apply to parliamentarians and politicians," said Mr Jale. "PSC is only concerned with and can only govern civil servants."

Last week the PSC had issued a circular to all its departments warning civil servants against consuming yaqona at work.

The circular warned civil servants to refrain from smoking and taking substances which would lower concentration levels. Mr Jale said government service to the public was a priority and civil servants were warned against taking substances which would affect their performance and service to the public. He said the PSC wanted to set high standards for civil servants because it expected the best results from them at the end of the day.

The warning from PSC came after 13 police officers were charged with disciplinary offences despite being warned by Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes that yaqona consumption was prohibited during working hours.

Mr Hughes said there was zero tolerance for drinking yaqona in police stations and posts while officers were on duty and they were working on several initiatives to eradicate the problem.

In addition to the 13 officers, 15 have received official warning letters while 10 have been warned verbally.

Mr Hughes said two police support officers had been caught on more than one occasion and were referred to the Employees Support Services for counselling.

He said failing counselling would mean termination for the PSOs.

Mr Hughes said officers were prohibited from drinking yaqona while on duty except if they have prior approval.

December 28, 2005

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