• Rabuka, Qionibaravi boycott Privileges Committee Meeting
Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka and colleague Adi Litia Qionibaravi boycotted the Parliamentary Privileges Committee meeting yesterday. The afternoon meeting was to discuss the case between Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and National Federation Party president and MP Pio Tikoduadua.
The Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, had earlier in the morning ruled that he had referred the case to the committee after Mr Tikoduadua had lodged a complaint for alleged assault against Mr Bainimarama with Ratu Epeli on August 9.
He also named the members of the committee: Veena Bhatnagar (deputy Speaker), Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Inia Seruiratu (Minister for Defence, National Security and Foreign Affairs), Alvick Maharaj (Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations), Mr Rabuka and Adi Litia.
Mr Rabuka said last night they had written to Ratu Epeli that they
would not participate because they believed that the process had not been properly followed.
“We do not want to prejudice the Police investigation by participating in another investigation,” he said last night.
He added that not having the majority is also a fact in the committees.
He said Opposition was always the minority and even if they participated “our views will not be taken to account and the majority will be taken into.” The meeting carried on without them.
During his earlier address in Parliament, Ratu Epeli revealed that Mr Bainimarama had met him on August 9 and offered his apology to him and Parliament over the alleged incident. He also said the PM also offered to apologise to Pio Tikoduadua in front of him. Ratu Epeli said he tried to arrange a meeting with Mr Tikoduadua but he was not available
It is understood that the PM had reached out twice through the Speaker seeking to apologise to Mr Tikoduadua.
In turn, Mr Tikoduadua did not want to meet with the PM and the Speaker alone. He wanted NFP leader Biman Prasad to be present. Mr Tikoduadua had also gone ahead and given an interview to Australian media saying that he did not think there would be any apology from the PM, despite attempts made for the apology to be made in front of the Speaker by Mr Bainimarama.
ABC’s Pacific Beat had reported: “But Mr Tikoduadua says he’s not holding out any hope of an apology.
“I’m not even sure they’re even thinking that way. So no,” Mr Tikoduadua was quoted telling the Australian broadcaster.
In his address yesterday, Ratu Epeli said there had been a breach of privilege by both Mr Bainimarama and Mr Tikoduadua for words allegedly spoken and act allegedly done within the parliamentary precincts on August 9.
He therefore referred the alleged incident to the Parliamentary Privileges Committee. He directed the committee to meet and consider all relevant avenues and to table its report with the recommendations to Parliament no later than Thursday, September 5.
He said Parliament was an independent arm of the State and was fully entitled to take such measure it deemed fit to maintain its integrity and decorum, and to take action for breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament.
He said the Fijian Constitution and the Standing Orders were clear that whatever happened in the Parliament precincts comes under the responsibility of the Speaker. The Speaker had the authority to maintain order and decorum in Parliament in accordance with the Standing Orders, he said. He said it was the Speaker’s responsibility to secure and maintain the honour and dignity of Parliament.
Ratu Epeli highlighted that also on August 9, he received a letter from NFP leader Biman Prasad requesting to secure CCTV footage of Parliament and informing Ratu Epeli of his intentions to take the matter to the Privileges Committee. Edited by Ranoba Baoa
Opposition member of Parliament Adi Litia Qionibaravi.
Leader of Opposition Sitiveni Rabuka.