Fiji's opposition defend boycott move
Fiji's opposition has explained why it boycotted the Indian PM's address.
Fiji's main opposition party has defended its boycott today of the special parliamentary sitting and address by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The opposition spokesman in the Parliament, and member of the Sodelpa Party, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu says the Speaker of the House sent a letter to the opposition inviting them to give the traditional vote of thanks speech after Mr Modi's speech, but the invitation was later retracted.
Ratu Naiqama says the party sent a letter to Mr Modi to explain and to make clear the boycott was not intended to offend.
RATU NAIQAMA LALABALAVU: We unanimously agreed not to attend, not as a sign of disrespect to Prime Minister Modi, but it's the way the Bainimarama Government has been behaving. You know, for a Parliament, there are two sides. We were invited by them to move the vote of thanks and all of sudden they withdrew that. And secondly, we fully understand that people have given to them the mandate to govern, but in terms of the parliamentary system, we have bi-partisan approaches and bi-partisan ways, especially in having important visitors such as this visiting our shores, we usually participate together. But this one here has been solely decided by the Bainimarama Government.
ALEX PERROTTET: What was the reason given to you to say that there would be no vote of thanks speech traditionally given by the leader of the opposition?
NL: Well the only reason given by our whip, who attended the business committee meeting, was that the Attorney-General withdrew all that was being decided by the Speaker. The Speaker is in charge of the House, together with the Secretary General, and the government of the day has to either adhere, or in advance try to get things agreed to with the Speaker before anything like that happens. When she decided to invite our leader to offer the vote of thanks, that was made by the Speaker, in a letter to us, and to be withdrawn by the government of the day, we find that quite hypocritical in the sense that the government of the day is bypassing the independence of the House, of the Parliament, especially the Speaker's role.
AP: So would you call that an abuse of the parliamentary process, an abuse of democracy?
NL: Yes, yes, very much so, a complete abuse of the parliamentary system and international parliamentary norms.
AP: Turning to Sodelpa's reaction, is it an offence to the Indian Prime Minister to do what your party did?
NL: Our view has been made, we decided to boycott it, not out of disrespect to Prime Minister Modi but in fact we informed Mr Modi as well, by letter, of our position, giving our apologies for not being present, because there are other issues as well that we wanted to.. we wanted to have a one-on-one meeting as well. The same government provided us an opportunity to meet with the Australian Foreign Minister, Bishop, and now with the same kind of VIP visiting our country, they've decided not to give us any time.
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