Fiji opposition wants international action over suspensions
Fiji Opposition leader calls for international action of the suspension of another party and its MPs from parliament.
The leader of the Opposition in Fiji has called for the international community to step in over what she describes as a culture of legal extremism by the Bainimarama government.
Ro Teimumu Kepa's comments come following the suspension of the National Federation Party and their three MPs from parliament.
Sally Round has been following the story and spoke to Don Wiseman.
DON WISEMAN: Sally, Ro Teimumu says only a minor matter led to these suspensions?
SALLY ROUND: Ro Teimumu who's the leader of the largest opposition party Sodelpa says the matter at issue could have been dealt with by a simple phone call, so the National Federation Party could have sorted things out. The party has three MPs in parliament and is actually the oldest party in the country and led by the respected economist Biman Prasad. He's been quite vocal about the government's handling of the economy. The matter which led to the suspensions is all to do with questions around the auditing of the NFP's accounts and the interpretation of the law around who is qualified to do auditing. The lawyers say it is a heavy handed disproportionate approach by the Supervisor of Elections, who they say actually knew about this matter six weeks ago and it could have been brought to the NFP's attention well before this.
DW: It's not just the party that's been suspended?
SR: No on Thursday the Speaker of Parliament suspended the party's three MPs. That means they can't do their work on committees or sit next week when parliament resumes. This is significant because Biman Prasad holds the influential position of chair of the Public Accounts Committee, looking into the government's accounts including a backlog of accounts left over from the years of military rule. The MPs suspension has also raised legal eyebrows. The MPs are suspended for thirty days and the party has 60 days to get things in order with its audit.
DW: The opposition now wants the international community to step in?
SR: Yes the Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa says the action taken against the NFP underscores how Fiji has become a country of severe and savage legal penalties and actions. She says many countries are turning a blind eye to what's unfolding and it's time for them to end what she calls their appeasement and flattery of Fiji.
Hers is the only opposition party for now ... with 15 members to the government's 32. The NFP and its leader and MPs are now effectively gagged from speaking out. They also are expecting a knock on the door form Fiji's anti corruption agency FICAC over the affair. Their lawyers say depriving members of the party and those who voted for NFP of their rights and representation in parliament goes against democracy and is a breach of their political rights under the Constitution. They are looking at lodging legal action.
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