Fiji opposition walks out, declares parliament 'farce'

10:31 pm on 11 February 2016

Fiji's parliamentary opposition walked out of parliament on Thursday, declaring the legislature a "slaughterhouse of democracy" and a "farce".

A statue of the Fiji statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna stands guard outside Fiji's government buildings, Suva

A statue of the Fiji statesman Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna stands guard outside Fiji's government buildings in Suva. Photo: RNZI/Sally Round

The SODELPA MPs were protesting against changes the government wanted to make to the parliament's rules, known as the standing orders.

The MPs called for the motion to be thrown out, saying rule changes could only be made by the Standing Orders Committee, which had reached an impasse on the issue.

Ratu Isoa Tikoca

Ratu Isoa Tikoca Photo: Fiji parliament website

"This a very sad day for parliament and parliamentary democracy when parliament has completely ignored procedures," the opposition's chief whip, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, said.

He said the most serious change would result in the opposition losing its chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee - another key parliamentary committee, which scrutinises accounts.

Another amendment requiring 40 percent of the parliament to approve petitions would nullify the voices of ordinary citizens wanting to raise issues, he said,

Government just 'fixing up' rules

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the constitution allowed parliament to amend parliamentary rules.

He said the changes were just a "fixing up" of the procedures and some of the changes were already happening.

"It is not trying to throttle democracy," he said.

In a veiled criticism of Biman Prasad, who has been the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum hit out at what he called arbitrary decisions and "commentary to the media on a running basis".

"We are trying to bring some sanity to the way the committee is conducted," he said.

After the walk-out, Ratu Isoa said the changes were the final straw in a week that also saw Dr Prasad and his two fellow National Federation Party (NFP) MPs suspended from parliament.

Fiji's parliament resumes on Tuesday with three empty seats after the suspension of the opposition National Federation Party MPs last week.

Fiji's parliament resumed on Tuesday with three empty seats after the suspension of the NFP MPs. Photo: Fiji Parliament

Opposition MPs had been wearing black ribbons as a sign of the death of the country's democracy, he said.

"We have been wearing black ribbons since Tuesday and that is the culmination of our substantively saying that these people have brought this country to total dictatorship again.

"There is no way we are addressing anything democratically. That is the position why we walked out."

The NFP and its MPs were controversially suspended last week for 30 days over an auditing issue.

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Topics: Fiji

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