Fiji Speaker Seeks Clarification On Future Of NFP MPs

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Impact of party suspension on MPs unclear; legal advice sought

By Nasik Swami

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 4, 2016) – Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni has sought the advice of the Solicitor General's Office on whether the three parliamentarians of the suspended National Federation Party can attend the Parliament session next Monday.

"We are waiting for a legal opinion and we will wait to see what the legal people will have to say," Dr Luveni said.

She said Parliament sought advice as the decision to suspend the NFP was made outside of Parliament.

"This is why we are seeking legal opinion because the ruling was made outside of Parliament. If it was made inside of Parliament, I would have had a basis of that ruling."

Dr Luveni said she would make her decision after receiving the legal advice.

She said the NFP's suspension would not affect the parliamentary proceeding next Monday.

"We will continue as normal as far as we are concerned from within Parliament.

"It affects only three members, but the quorum for Parliament is one third, which is 17. Even though if there are only 18 people attending a sitting, there is still a quorum. The sitting will go ahead."

Dr Luveni said as usual, the NFP was invited to attend the Business Committee meeting on Friday.

Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem said since the party's suspension on Monday, his office had not received any feedback from them.

Former speaker of Parliament Pita Nacuva said the situation was confusing since he had never come across such a scenario in Parliament.

According to the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures Decree 2013, Section 27 (5) where a political party commits an offence under the decree, the registrar has the power to issue a warning and require the political party to conform to the decree within a specified period or suspend the registration of the political party not exceeding 12 months.

"Notwithstanding subsection 5, a person who is a member of a political party that has been suspended and is a member of Parliament, shall continue as a member of Parliament for the unexpired term," the decree states.

A New Zealand law expert, who is the author of Criminal Procedure in New Zealand and Auckland University law professor, Bill Hodge, told Radio Australia that the party's suspension did not mean that its three elected MPs cease to be members of Parliament.

Mr Hodge said the suspension was a major punishment for a minor infringement.

The NFP was suspended for 30 days on Monday by Mr Saneem for contravening the Political Parties Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures Decree 2013.

He said the party accounts were not audited by an accountant certified by the Fiji Institute of Accountants (FIA) as required by the decree.

Accounting firm, APNR Partners that audited the suspended party's books, refused to comment when questioned about its registration.

The firm said they had referred the matter to their lawyers.

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