The Fiji CSO Alliance for COVID-19 Humanitarian Response reminds the Speaker of the important role he plays in Parliament. The Constitution provides that the Speaker is independent and only subject to the Constitution and any other law. In performing the functions of the office, the Speaker must act impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice. The Speaker is also required to secure the honour and dignity of Parliament.
According to Standing Order 70 on Powers of the Speaker to enforce order (1) The Speaker is responsible for maintaining order and decorum in Parliament. The alliance is disappointed with the manner in which the Speaker of Parliament fails to hold elected Members of Parliament (MPs) accountable when utilising non-parliamentary language and behaviour. MPs play a critical role in a democratic system of governance, as they are officially elected by the citizens of Fiji to speak on their behalf, to represent their interests and to express their opinions with regards to actions, policies and laws of the Government that affect every citizen.
Of the 365 days in a year, Parliament is scheduled to sit a total of approximately 45 days. It is imperative that MPs utilise this time allocated to engage in constructive debate and discussion on issues at hand and more importantly refrain from personal attacks and derogatory remarks. The second wave of the pandemic and the widespread community transmission and increasing deaths which have now, resulted in the Western Division having a higher 7-day rolling average of COVID-19 deaths than the Central Division, and with increasing transmission on Kadavu, call for our MPs constructive and purposeful debate, as this humanitarian crisis continues. Derogatory remarks passed in Parliament, insults the sanctity of the Institution. According to Standing Order 62 (4) (a) “It is out of order for a member, when speaking, to use— offensive words against Parliament or another member”.
The Prime Minister in a 2016 statement said “such careless insults and accusations have no place in modern Fiji or in Parliamentary debates, as clearly seen under Standing Order 62(4) (a) and (d)… that are likely to promote or provoke feelings of ill-will or hostility between communities or ethnic groups within Fiji.” The PM adds that “given our history, Parliament must never allow such reckless behaviour to go unchecked. We have rules in place designed to ensure our democracy operates fairly and accountably and those rules need to be enforced.”
The alliance calls on the Speaker of Parliament to uphold his duties responsibly as per the Constitution and never allow such reckless behaviour to go unchecked as stated by the PM. We also call for the promotion of dialogue and more debate and discussion in Parliament that centres around the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on all Fijians.
This statement is endorsed by the following members of the Fiji CSO Alliance for COVID-19 Humanitarian Response: Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre (FWCC), Fiji Women’s Rights Movement (FWRM), FemLINKPacific, Social Empowerment and Education Program (SEEP) and Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF).