NFP decries changes to Parliament dates

Opposition MP Pio Tikoduadua. Picture: FT FILE

THE National Federation Party believes that amending the 2019 Parliament calendar has done grave injustice to the taxpayers of Fiji.

Parliament, on Friday, passed a motion to reduce Parliament sitting by two weeks.

Parliament will now sit for seven weeks between April and November.

The March and July sitting sessions have been scrapped.

While speaking on the motion in Parliament on Friday, Opposition MP Pio Tikoduadua said Parliament would now only sit for 35 days including the sitting for this month and a few hours sitting for the budget address on June 7.

In moving the motion, Leader of Government in Parliament Inia Seruiratu said it had been raised by the Government Whip during the Business Committee meetings that most of the committees were finding it difficult to cope with the amount of work and that was one of the reasons considered for the change in the Parliament sitting calendar.

Mr Tikoduadua said this was a lame excuse.

“I believe and we believe that this is not a very good excuse and a lame excuse for that matter. Ten additional days to facilitate the so-called committee sittings will not clear the backlog,” Mr Tikoduadua said

. “If we are so concerned about the parliamentarian allowance for sitting and secondly, the reduction of two sitting days because of budgetary constraints and in that regard I would suggest maybe, if funding is any issue, then maybe we should do away with morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea at the expense of taxpayers.”

He said if funding constraints was an issue, then MPs should just buy their own lunch which was the norm when Parliament was located at Veiuto, Nasese.

Mr Tikoduadua claimed last year there were sittings for at least five months which gave the standing committees ample time to scrutinise pending reports but they still failed to do so.

“But, honourable Speaker, 28 months is a long time. Therefore, if nothing was done in 10 months, then what can we expect in 10 days?”

Mr Tikoduadua said the standing committees were chaired by Government MPs and that effective time management was the only key to completing the task before them. Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka, while contributing to the motion, said at the last Business Committee Meeting, the SODELPA members in Opposition had asked for reconsideration of the move to reduce the Parliament Sitting weeks.

“At the meeting we had asked for reconsideration. Instead of reducing, we should have stuck with the same program and this was the view of the members of caucus, but also some of the members of the SODELPA caucus had asked for more time for the committees,” Mr Rabuka said.

“More time does not necessarily mean more days. “We also understand the machinery of democracy. We brought in our concerns, we were outnumbered in the Business Committee.

“With those few words and with the reservations of some members of the SODELPA caucus about the reduction in the number of days and perhaps affecting our profile, people are watching us now on television.”

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the reality was that Parliament was not the only way to measure Government’s performance.

“By shortening or reducing two of the sitting months, it does not necessarily mean that they cannot ask us questions,” he said.

“They can ask us questions but the reality is that the people of Fiji, like in any other democracy, when they vote a party to Government they expect Government to do the work and the Government has to go and do the work through their minsters, through the implementation of their policies and that is how it has an impact on the ground.

“The other point also that this Parliament also has to do is review the various reports that come before this Parliament and we are lagging behind
with 81 reports. There is no point just simply coming to Parliament, having a bit of a circus here and then go away.

“With these reports, 61 reports have to be scrutinised. It is not just a question of scrutiny, they have to be tabled here. We have to debate them. When are we going to do that if the reports are not prepared?”

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