Fiji Speaker Suspended Rules Of Parliament To Suspend MPs

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

Government motion to oust NFP members ‘fast-tracked’

By Losalini Bolatagici

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 10, 2016) – The Opposition is now without four Members of Parliament in the February sitting with Parliament yesterday endorsing Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni's decision to suspend National Federation Party MPs.

The legal row on the suspension took a different twist when Dr Luveni fast-tracked a government motion to suspend National Federation Party parliamentarians by suspending Standing Order 46, which requires two days' notice to be given of a motion.

Suspended are Dr Biman Prasad, Prem Singh and Roko Tupou Draunidalo, who are also members of the standing committees on economic affairs, foreign affairs and defence, public accounts and select committees on business, standing orders, house and emoluments. They join Opposition MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu who was suspended last year for two years.

The Parliament endorsement follows the legal advice given last Friday by Munro Leys, lawyers for NFP, that the MPs had done nothing wrong and that the Political Parties Decree did not restrict any of the rights of MPs of a party suspended for contravening the decree. NFP has also questioned the legality of their suspension by the Registrar of Political Parties last week.

Opposition MP Niko Nawaikula asked why the matter was brought as a motion to Parliament.

"This came in wrongly — that is not the way to do business here — this is the house for the people and the people are entitled to know what has to be debated and the substances of the topic to be debated beforehand — not here — you don't come here, suspend the standing orders and move the motion without notice," he said.

Mr Nawaikula said the NFP members should at least be present at the sitting to defend themselves.

"First they are not here to defend themselves. Where are they? Why should we bring it now? Why don't we wait until they are here to at least talk about it — that's natural justice!"

Dr Luveni explained the matter was of national interest, thus the suspension of the standing order.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in his motion said, "it was abundantly clear from the constitutional provisions that any duly elected member of Parliament must be a representative of a registered political party and therefore, logically and consequently, the registration for the suspension of the registration of political party has an effect of suspending that political party and all its members from Parliament including all committees of Parliament for the period of suspension."

Dr Luveni said she had sought legal advice on the impact of suspending the members without pay.

The Opposition argued the Speaker was not entitled to suspend the Standing Order for the motion.

"You are not entitled to do this - you came in the wrong way - you don't come in, suspend a standing order to move a motion without notice," Mr Nawaikula said.

"If you give that advice, you stand by it. If it gets challenged, you go to the court. You don't come here because whatever is decided here, the court cannot open it."

Leader of Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa, Semesa Karavaki and Mosese Bulitavu suggested the Speaker seek an independent legal opinion other than that of the Solicitor-General.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Opposition got it wrong.

He said the decision by Parliament to endorse the decision made by the Speaker was simply an endorsement and did not in any way restrict NFP from challenging the decision made by the Registrar of Political Parties.

The suspension is for 30 days with effect from February 1.

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