Fiji Opposition hopes for new parliamentary era
The Leader of the Opposition in Fiji says she hopes a parliamentary visit to the UK will mark the the beginning of a new era in parliamentary democracy in her country.
Ro Teimumu Kepa was part of a delegation, including the speaker and the Secretary-General of Parliament, which observed the operations of the UK Parliament.
Ro Teimumu says before the trip there were a number of issues she had with how parliament was being run in Fiji.
But now she tells Koro Vaka'uta, the parliamentary processes are becoming more democratic.
RO TEIMUMU KEPA: In all three parliaments we were advised on the importance of committees especially on debate of the various bills that would come through parliament. Our particular concern was the way in which last year the packaging of bills was put through parliament. We had about 13 bills that were packaged together and, in our view, rushed through parliament which should have been put to committee. That matter has now been partly resolved because after our parliamentary visit the committees are being convened so we are thankful that that has come about. The other issue was the funding of parliament which we were also concerned about in terms of the new method of payment to the Opposition office which in our view was not the right way to fund the opposition office. It was to fund it through political party accounts. That's money that should have come through the budget to the Opposition. The suggestion was made that it be paid to the parliament account which we did not agree with. Before the meeting it was very, very difficult for us to make any head-way so after that particular visit it now seems more hopeful from our side of the House.
KORO VAKA'UTA: Is it great to be able to undertake these meetings as a full operational parliament after so many years?
RTK: I think it is very important. Not only from the Opposition side but just as importantly or even more importantly for the Government because when you are functioning under a dictatorship it is not easy for you to listen to another side in terms of debate. So for us to go through the three parliaments and to hear both sides having very healthy debate, and we were able to be there during question time in the House of Commons and also in the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly, it was very enlightening. This parliamentary visit especially after the difficulties we have had, this is a new experience for everyone.
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