Parliamentarians Should Not Abuse Their Privileges
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?