Draunidalo’s suspension: Another stab at democracy

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum demands that Parliament review their decision to suspend Hon. Tupou Draunidalo. CCF finds the decision unfounded and inconsistent. The result is a mockery of democratic processes set out in the Standing Orders.

This is the second suspension of a member of Parliament. The first was Hon. Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who was given a similar order of suspension for the remaining term of Parliament, a decision considered inappropriate on the international platform by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Governing Council.

Hon. Draunidalo’s suspension came about when she reacted to the Hon. Mahendra Reddy’s claim that the Opposition did not have any academic toppers. The Hansard reports her saying “… a fool…” and when the Hon. Attorney-General raised a Point of Order on this, she was reported saying “And he provided worse in his speech, calling us “dumb natives, you idiot.” At the time the Hon. Speaker ruled to allow the debate to continue as Hon. Reddy “continued without reacting to the statement.”[1]

“The Speaker could have warned the Hon. Draunidalo and asked for a withdrawal of her statement, maintaining order in Parliament. In the worst case scenario, she could have invoked a suspension under Standing Order 75 for the remainder of that day if she thought it fit. Instead she allowed the debate to continue as it did,” said CCF CEO Sara Bulutani Mataitawakilai.

The following day the Speaker asked the Hon. Attorney-General to withdraw a statement made against Hon. Prem Singh who found it offensive.

CCF is concerned over a deterioration of democratic processes clearly reflected in the Standing Orders. A recommendation for a suspension until 2018 was made under Standing Order 62(4)(a) and (d) by Parliament’s Privileges Committee.“These recommendations are unsubstantiated under the Rules of Debate as it does not provide for a suspension until the end of the parliamentary term for these situations. Even Standing Order 76 does not provide for this. So where does it come from?” asked CCF CEO Sara Bulutani Mataitawakilai.

Further, the Privileges Committee offering the recommendation was composed of government members. The two Opposition members waived their involvement in the proceedings, as did Hon. Tupou who chose to remain silent. CCF urges the Opposition to participate in these processes, instead of prejudging the outcome and dealing with matters outside of Parliament.

Overall, CCF is saddened to see discriminatory and derogatory views being aired in Parliament. Parliamentarians are urged to carry themselves with dignity and maintain parliamentary decorum despite their right to privilege. Hon. Draunidalo’s matter could have easily been resolved in Parliament instead of setting dangerous precedence. CCF further recommends that the Hansard reports accurately all that is recorded.

“There is an urgent need for the Speaker’s oversight to maintain fairness and consistency when dealing with offensive gestures and remarks made in Parliament. If the government of the day is serious about achieving a genuine democracy, they must first set the foundations to show respect for core human rights,” said Mataitawakilai.

“Seeing how the decision has caused a public outcry in the past week, we hope to see a remedy to this decision,” he added.

ENDS

 

[1] Parliament of the Republic of Fiji, Parliamentary Debates Daily Hansard, 1 June 2016.

 

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