Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans Should Not Abuse Their Priv­i­leges

Fiji Sun - - Comment - JY­OTI PRAT­I­BHA Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj

Our Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are given a very honourable priv­i­lege- Par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege. This priv­i­lege should not be used to per­pet­u­ate lies and to give rise to com­mu­nal an­tag­o­nism. Sadly, we have seen too much of this hap­pen­ing and that too from Op­po­si­tion mem­bers and too of­ten the same mem­bers are noted to shoot their mouths with­out giv­ing any thought to the con­se­quences of what they say.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple watch Par­lia­men­tary sit­tings. Our Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans need to be mind­ful of what im­pact their ut­ter­ances have on all those watch­ing. The way some of the Op­po­si­tion Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have been speak­ing gives rise to an­other thought: should we start hav­ing Hansard re­porters’ fact check­ing state­ments of these MPs? Some out­ra­geous things al­ready said in Par­lia­ment in­cludes read­ing out names of prom­i­nent Mus­lims in the coun­try and claim­ing that their ap­point­ments have been made be­cause of their re­li­gion. Ratu Isoa Tikoca has been very ir­re­spon­si­ble in do­ing this.

And, worse is that he has not made any at­tempts to back his claims with ev­i­dence. One merely has to look at the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of those peo­ple named by Ratu Isoa. But how many peo­ple would take out time to do so?

Should the bur­den not fall on Ratu Isoa to prove his claims? Why should he be able to hide be­hind Par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege? Had he made sim­i­lar com­ments out­side of Par­lia­ment, he would no doubt be sued by ev­ery in­di­vid­ual named by him.

Is it fair to have him de­fame hard­work­ing Fi­jians while con­ve­niently hid­ing be­hind Par­lia­men­tary priv­i­lege? No. And, we have also been hear­ing ex­ag­ger­ated num­bers of classes be­ing held in tents, sadly also from the Op­po­si­tion side. By be­ing loud does not make ev­ery­thing you say true. An­other Op­po­si­tion MP – Vil­iame Ga­voka - claimed in Par­lia­ment that Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion Party leader Bi­man Prasad was in jail a day be­fore Pres­i­dent Ma­jor Gen­eral (Ret’d) Jioji Kon­rote opened Par­lia­ment. That too was a lie. He was not in jail. Mr Prasad and oth­ers who had taken part in a meet­ing for which no per­mit had been sought were taken in for Po­lice ques­tion­ing. None of their rights were vi­o­lated. They were well treated. They were nowhere near jail. Di­rec­tor Hu­man Rights and Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mis­sion Ash­win Raj met with all who were ques­tioned. Where did Mr Ga­voka’s idea of them be­ing in jail come from? An­other highly ir­re­spon­si­ble re­mark from a mem­ber who peo­ple voted in, to sit in Par­lia­ment. NFP’s pres­i­dent – who hap­pens to be a lawyer- Roko Tupou Drau­nidalo had also made some re­marks.

It’s ob­vi­ous that these Op­po­si­tion MPs have ig­nored the ad­vice of Pres­i­dent Kon­rote and his pre­de­ces­sor, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau that MPs should not ped­dle false in­for­ma­tion to cre­ate doubt and fear among or­di­nary peo­ple.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple watch Par­lia­men­tary sit­tings. Our Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans need to be mind­ful of what im­pact their ut­ter­ances have on com­mon Fi­jians. From the way some of the Op­po­si­tion Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have been speak­ing gives rise to an­other thought: should we start hav­ing Hansard re­porters’ fact check­ing state­ments of these MPs?

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