Fiji’s NFP confident they can fill role of opposition without SODELPA

NFP MPs, Lenora Qereqeretabua, Biman Prasad and Pio Tikoduadua Photo: Fiji Parliament

The leader of Fiji’s National Federation Party says he’s confident the NFP will do well to fill in the role of Opposition in Parliament following the suspension of SODELPA last week.

Supervisor of Elections and Registrar of Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem, suspended the main opposition party for 60 days for breaching political rules and the Constitution.

NFP leader Professor Biman Prasad said while there was only three of them in the House, it did not stop them from holding the government to account.

“In a democracy, the opposition is just as important as the government and we understand that role,” he said.

“Obviously, 24 is better than three but we feel that we have held the government to account on a number of things.”

Mr Prasad said he was saddened by the turn of events and hoped SODELPA members would sort out their differences so they could return to Parliament.

He said with the number of opposition members who could speak on motions and ask questions now down, the challenge was on the NFP to ensure the government was scrutinised on every matter brought to the House.

“We will do our best until our colleagues return. There will be abit of extra work for us – as a party and as members of parliament.

“But the people who voted for the opposition deserve this and we’re going to work very hard to do exactly what they expect of us.”

NFP not permitted to quiz PM

The NFP leader also said he was “disappointed” he wasn’t allowed to question Sugar Minister and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in Parliament about payments to cane farmers for the 2019 harvest season.

Mr Prasad said he had filed a question seeking an explanation on the deduction of 30 US cents per tonne from last week’s cane payment.

But he said his question was disallowed by the Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau Photo: Supplied/ Infinity Images Fiji

“We were disappointed the question wasn’t allowed. We have already said that the explanation by the Fiji Sugar Corporation’s interpretation of the Master Award was wrong.

“We believe that the 67 cents per tonne that was rejected by the farmers should not have been made. So I wanted to ask that question in Parliament but it was not allowed.”

Canegrowers ‘short-changed’

The NFP leader said he had filed the question for the prime minister in the hope it would be included in this week’s Order paper.

Biman Prasad claimed canegrowers had been short-changed $US550,000 from the fourth cane payment for last year after 30 US cents per tonne was deducted.

“We wish to inform growers that our question to the prime minister – to explain why growers have been short-changed – was ruled out by Parliament,” he said.

“Therefore, we are unable to raise this in the highest court of the land and hold the government to account on this issue.”

Mr Prasad said the decision to take the issue to Parliament arose because NFP felt Fiji Sugar Corporation chief executive Graham Clark offered an “erroneous” explanation about the deduction.

Earlier the NFP’s motion for a parliamentary inquiry into the health, medical care and delivery services at hospitals and centres was defeated.

Recognised office holder

Meanwhile the Registrar of Political Parties said SODELPA vice president Vijay Singh is the only recognised office holder in the suspended party.

Mohammed Saneem said party officials could “hold the necessary meeting to remedy the breach, however, in mentioning the name of the party, the officials must state that it was under suspension”.

Mr Saneem also warned that the suspended party would be deregistered if it did not resolve its internal differences within 60 days from Monday, 25 May.

No Parliament on Facebook

Another development this week saw Speaker Ratu Epeli Nailatikau directing that the proceedings of Parliament not be shown on Facebook.

Ratu Epeli said Facebook provided auto-generated subtitles, which were “incorrect and out of context”.

He said Parliament did not provide nor have control over the subtitles which were “controlled entirely by Facebook”.

But Ratu Epeli said the House sessions could be viewed on the Parliament of Fiji website.

Source: RNZ