Biman Prasad send an apology and some ideas for discussion. Ro Teimumu did not even have the courtesy to reply to the invitation. Not a good start for an reasoned, inclusive parliament which held its first session today. Government and the opposition parties would do well to take a leaf out of the book of NZ's John Key, but more of this below.
The New Parliament
|The first session Monday 6 October 2014. Dr Jiko in the chair.|
FIJI HAS ITS FIRST WOMAN SPEAKER. Parliament unanimously elected Dr Jiko Luveni as Speaker. Two nominations were received for the position of Deputy Speaker. Ruveni Nadobe Nadalo, the Government nominee, was elected with 32 votes, beating the Opposition nominee Ratu Viliame Tagivetau with 18 votes.
Dr JIKO "PROTESTS" HER APPOINTMENT.
|Speakers traditionally have to be dragged to accept their election.|
For the origin of the tradition, click here. Other photos may be seen on the MOI Facebook site. Click here.
PORTFOLIO CHANGES. A last minute change in Cabinet before the swearing in of the new Parliament sees Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum resuming his role as the Attorney-General. Sayed Khaiyum sheds the role of Minister for Industry and Trade and Minister for Tourism, which will be taken up by Faiyaz Koya who was appointed as the Attorney-General after election. The switches in the portfolio will see Mr Sayed-Khaiyum taking up the AG and Minister for Finance portfolio. The business for the first sitting of the new parliament included the swearing in of Members of Parliament, elections of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Opposition Leader, the adoption of Standing Orders, and the setting of a date for the next sitting.
RO TEIMUMU was elected unopposed as the Leader of the Opposition.
THE GOVERNMENT BENCHES. Line ups in the front benches indicate importance. Numbers 1-6 went to the PM, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (Attorney-General and Finance), Pio Tikoduadua (Infrastructure and Transport), Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (Foreign Affairs), Dr Mahendra Reddy (Education), Mereseini Viniwaqa (Lands).
CEREMONIAL OPENING OF PARLIAMENT. The President will open Parliament at 10am Tuesday.
Both countries have mixed member proportional representation, both PM's have said they wished to make government inclusive with some sharing of power with opposition parties, and both PM's were reasonably modest in victory. In Fiji, FijiFirst won 60% of the votes and in NZ, National won slightly over 50%, until special votes reduced its majority to just under 50%.
John Key is hoping to sign a memorandum of understanding with NZ First, and is expected to make single-policy deals with the Green Party. The NZ Listener commented,
"If entered into with goodwill, these ventures will mark a welcome maturation of our MMP system, based as it ideally is on consensus politics."Voqere Bainimarama has already tried to be inclusive by inviting the Opposition parties to the Budget Forum, and there has been talk of an appointment to the Taukei Land Trust Board.
It is important for democracy in Fiji that FijiFirst does not choose to rule alone, or is forced to do so by Opposition intransigence.
There are many potential areas of common ground, and scope, particularly in the standing committees, for co-operation.
From the Government side, I hope they seek areas of agreement with NFP on the economy and education, and with SODELPA on the use of Taukei land and Taukei concerns. There could also be agreement, later on, for a revived, apolitical Great Council of Chiefs, with clearly prescribed boundaries of responsibility.
From the NFP, I hope they do not slide into a too easy, engulfing accommodation with SODELPA. They need to keep their own identity and show a willingness for principled co-operation with Govenment on selected issues.
For SODELPA, I hope it will focus on the issues where accommodation and compromise is possible. The management and use of Taukei land would be good starting points. I hope it does not focus on issues it cannot win, where further argument would be even more vindictive and divisive.
I hope it will abandon its appeal to the Courts challenging the 2014 Constitution and challenges to the validity of the Election results. It cannot win these issues or force any change within Parliament. Indeed, as a minority party, it cannot force any changes.
SODELPA needs to quickly evolve into a party respected by all ethnic groups and all educated people as a party of reason and moderation or it will lose even more support at the next election.
Finally, it is people who may or may not be reasonable and speak with moderation. This means that all MP's, especially their leaders, must play their part or Fiji, led by poor parliamentary example, will lapse once more into division and acrimony.
It is Fiji Week this week and Fiji Day on Friday. Something to cautiously celebrate?