Parliament

Live Blog: Parliament April 25

The April sitting of the Parliament of Fiji started today. The Order Paper for today’s session is available for download here (pdf-271KB).  The live stream for Parliament is available here. Motion by the Attorney-General pursuant to Standing Order 51 ‘Fair reporting of the credit bill’ The Motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 16 No | 5 Not voted The Attorney General […]

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April 25, 2016 9:54 am

The April sitting of the Parliament of Fiji started today. The Order Paper for today’s session is available for download here (pdf-271KB).  The live stream for Parliament is available here.

Motion by the Attorney-General pursuant to Standing Order 51

‘Fair reporting of the credit bill’

The Motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 16 No | 5 Not voted

The Attorney General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum moved a motion on ‘Fair reporting of the credit bill’ to be debated on Wednesday and not referred to the Standing committee.

The AG said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “There is no recourse if there is identity theft or identity mistake. It gives effect to us starting on a clean slate, We need a credited reporting agency . This bill gives ordinary Fijians to start off on a clean slate, and that all agencies holding data information should report it to the Reserve Bank of Fiji.”

Hon. Viliame Gavoka said:

GAVOKA: “The fast-tracking of this bill is something that concerns us and this is not the manner we should go about this bill. There needs to be more dialogue. People need to understand what this bill is and how it affects us.”

Hon. Koya in support of the motion said the matter is of great importance to a lot of Fijians.

Hon. Darunidalo said more time is needed.

DRAUNIDALO: “After having more time to go through this bill, we can than make substantial contributions to bill.”

Hon. Biman Prasad said:

PRASAD: “It would be very good to have this referred to the appropriate committee and it will allow members of the public to come before the committee and voice their concerns. If we were to take a few months to make consultations on the bill, I don’t think this would hurt government in any way.”

MP Hon. Mosese Bulitavu said:

BULITAVU: “The most important thing is to give the people their right to be aware of the making of the laws. The ordinary Fijian need to understand and especially the group of people who will be affected by this bill.”

The AG in his right of reply said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “We need to be responsive to the needs of the ordinary Fijians in society and this bill is of such urgency.”

“Every single citizen will be happy with this bill and we shouldn’t go out and wasting months on hand discussing this. The only persons who wont be happy with this bill are shareholders of these businesses. This bill allows people the right to correct information in credit agencies and the right to privacy of information.”

“We have another 8 to 10 bills coming to parliament this week and we are utilizing the ‘Standing Order 51’ because of the urgency of issues faced by ordinary Fijians.”

Speaker of Parliament Hon. Dr. Jiko Luveni said the motion on ‘Fair reporting of the Credit Bill’ by the Attorney-General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum be moved to debate under Standing Order 51.

The Ministerial statements and the Motion by the Attorney-General pursuant to Standing Order 130 has been postponed to tomorrow’s parliament sitting.


Motion on ‘False information’

The Motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 16 No | 5 Not voted

The Attorney General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum moved a motion on ‘False information’ for the purposes of criminalizing those giving false information to government officials and police.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “This is for the people that they will only make true declarations.”

The AG said that the bill to be not referred to the Standing Committee and be debated tomorrow in Parliament.

Opposition MP Hon. Tikoca said:

TIKOCA: “Will this law bind the government as well. you owe us a lot of income tax.”

Hon. Tupou Draunidalo  addressed the Speaker of Parliament saying that:

DRAUNIDALO: “I think it is too short to debate tomorrow. We should get proper advise on this. Standing Orders should not be abused and be used only for emergency and not changing the financial year and bringing amendments to the Act.”

The AG said in reply:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “It’s about nobody making false declarations and stealing from the government.”

The motion was agreed to and will be for debated tomorrow for an hour.


BUDGET – Financial year change

The Motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 14 No | 6 Not voted

The Attorney General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum moved a motion to change the fiscal year in parliament this afternoon.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “We need to change the fiscal year within the government’s finances. The revenue that we generate is enough to cover for our operating costs. But we need to borrow money to generate and to build.

“As we experienced in the previous budgets, the budgets should be delivered no later that the 30th of November. We need to be able to adapt. Currently, we have a budget that commences in January but the Cyclone season starts in November. We have consulted with the World Bank and the IMF and they said that this is a positive move.”

NFP leader Hon. Biman Prasad said:

PRASAD: “The national budget runs from the 1st January to the 31st Dec. And the AG’s reference to the World Bank and IMF is not always the best advise. If we are to change the financial year that we currently have, we should have a proper debate about this and taken to the Standing Committee.”

“With the reasons the Minister of Finance brought forward about people going on holiday and the Christmas season are reasons for the change, I think there are fundamental problems with that argument. This are human resources and management to address, there need to be a consultation with the Civil servants.”

“If they plan well and coordinated well than I dont think changing the financial year is going to make significant changes. The best thing for the Minster of Finance to do in light of TC Winston, government to have to re-look the 2016 budget and revise it. And make some alignments on that.”

“You have already announced that the new budget will be on the 22nd of June and I think we should not rush through this bill but put this to the Standing Committee for consideration and further debate.”

Hon. Viliame Gavoka said “This should be deliberated properly before we can use it”

The AG asked the Speaker for the bill to be debated on Wednesday.


Consideration of Bills

HERITAGE BILL 2016 (BILL NO. 10 of 2016) – Second Reading

“Heritage Bill provides protection over heritage sites throughout Fiji.”

This was the statement by the Attorney General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum when moving a motion for the Heritage Bill in parliament.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “This legislation will allow us to administer to these sites and an establishment for a council to announce other sites to be added in the national list of heritage sites.”

Minister for Education and Heritage and Arts Hon. Mahendra Reddy in support of the bill said:

REDDY: “We should have a specific legislation to provide a framework to protect our heritage sites.”

Assistant Minister for Health Hon. Veena Bhatnagar supported the motion saying the ‘Heritage Sites’ is the connection to the past.

BHATNAGAR: “Our heritage sites is our connection to the past.”

Hon. Balmindar Singh also supported the motion:

“We should care for our heritage sites because it contribute to economic well-being meaning more jobs and is better for our environment.”

Opposition MP Hon. Jiosefa Dulakiverata in support of the bill asked if there was any compensation for the sites.

The AG in his right of response said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “This bill provides that our heritage sites protection and that since there are not many heritage sites in Suva city compared to Levuka, this will ensure that heritages site outside of Suva will be looked after.”

RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES BILL 2016 (BILL NO. 12 OF 2016) – Second reading

The bill for people with disabilities aims to give equal rights to people with disabilities. This was said by the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum as he moved the motion.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “The bill puts measures in place for people with disabilities equal access to facilities and services in Fiji.”

MP Hon. Netani Rika supported the bill.

RIKA: “Much more is needed and can be done in government and all levels of society. The national council of persons with disabilities have huge roles to play. We Fijians have the responsibility to uphold the rights of persons living with disabilities.”

Minister of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Hon. Rosy Akbar also supported the bill. She informed parliament that most families who have a member living a disability face challenges within their homes.

AKBAR: “Persons living with disabilities continuously seek for a voice, recognition and a rightful place in a nation as a whole.”

“People living with disabilities need this bill. Their voices will be heard and the recent TC Winston brought to light some of the issues that people with disabilities face. The bill will bring the much need protection that they need.”

NFP Leader Hon. Biman Prasad supported the bill and said that persons with disabilities have suffered in many ways.

PRASAD: “To make sure that people with disabilities are not discriminated in employment or in wages received.”

Hon. Faiyaz Koya also spoke to support the Bill.

KOYA: “It is important that we ensure that people with disabilities know that they are not forgotten. In my Ministry, we employ two persons who have disabilities. We want employers not to discriminate persons with disabilities.”

Opposition MP Hon. Salote Radrodro also supported the bill.

RADRODRO: “We have no reservation for the bill and we all support it.”

Radrodro said that in the 2016 National Budget, the National Federation Council for Disabled Persons (NFCDP) was allocated an amount of $400,000.

“We need to increase the amount allocated to the NFCDP.”

Opposition MP Hon. Mosese Bulitavu said:

BULITAVU: “We need to look that in order to implement the bill for persons with disabilities, resources need to be able bring about the implementations of the bill.”

Hon. Tupou Draunidalo supported the bill and said that more funding is needed.

DRAUNIDALO: “We commend the implementations to move the bill. I agree with Hon. Radrodro, that we need to increase the amount given to the NFCDP in our national budget.”

In his right of reply the Attorney General thanked members of parliament for supporting the motion.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “We must improve on this bill and not just take it as it is.”

The motion was agreed to unanimously to be read for the second time and has been referred to the Standing Committee of Social Affairs.


Parliamentary Questions

Question: Hon. Prem Singh to the Minister for Local Government, Housing, and Environment, Infrastructure and Transport:

“Would the Minister inform the House when will local government elections in our municipalities be conducted as announced by him after his swearing in as a Minister on 24th September 2014.”

Response: Minister Pravin Kumar said this is still ‘in process’.


Question: Hon. Mikaele Leawere to the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts:

“Can the Minister explain as to what scholarships are available to rural students from disadvantaged parents given that Government has taken away the Fijian Affairs and Multi-ethnic Scholarships.”

Response: Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy said:

“When the previous scheme was in place, 5434 students were studying under the PSC, Multi-ethnic and Fijian Affairs Scholarships.  Whereas in 2014, 12,943 students are studying under the new scheme (TOPPERS and TELS). In 2015, this number increased to 14,409 students who studied under the new scheme.”

Minister Reddy said more students are now able to access government funding due to the new scheme.

Opposition MP Sela Nanovo asked the Minister how many students are recipients of the TOPPER’s Scholarship since the new scheme came into place.

REDDY: “In 2014, we had 314 TOPPERS scholarship recipients, 409 recipients in 2015 and the number of scholarships awarded increase to 579 this year”


Question: Hon. Salote Radrodro to the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management:

“Can the Minister explain what plans are in place that addresses the transition, of those affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston, and still living in tents, into permanent houses.”

Response: Minister Inia Seruiratu informed parliament that transition is in place on the humanitarian relief side of operations to recovery and long-term rehabilitation.
“This transition is a lengthy process especially the recovery and long-term rehabilitation. On housing, for those still in temporary shelters there have been initiatives from Government to help rebuild that had already been presented by the Prime Minister, in particular, the Hope for Homes intiative.”

“In some areas, most of the fallen trees during the cyclone have been utilized in the rebuilding of homes. The Ministry have donated chainsaws. There are also portable saw-mills being used, in particular, there is one currently in Koro Island which has been utilized and we are reaping the fallen trees to help in the construction of homes”.

An opposition member questioned Minister Seruiratu on the quality and strength of the materials used to rebuild homes have been questioned in response to the use of fallen trees.

SERUIRATU: “We are building back stronger and better with the continuous assistance from the Fiji Institute of Engineers. Reconstruction is a lengthy process. and resources will determine the time frame on the rebuilding and construction of homes”.


Question: Hon. Ro Teimumu Kepa to the Attorney-General and Minister for Finance, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications:

“Can the Minister inform Parliament on how Government is financing the Tropical Cyclone Winston rehabilitation works.”


Question: Hon. Alexander O’Connor to the Minister for Youth and Sports:

“Can the Minister advise this House if consideration has been given to the severity of the Zika Virus in South America and its possible effect on our athletes to the Rio Olympics.”

Response: Minister Laisenia Tuitubou said the health and safety of the Fiji athletes to the Rio Olympics were paramount.

TUITUBOU: “Athletes are advised to take mosquito repellents and stay in airconditioned rooms to reduce the risk of getting the Zika virus”


Question: Hon. Netani Rika to the Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management:

“Could the Minister inform this House of some of the major challenges experienced by the National Disaster Management Office during the recent series of natural disasters that swept through Fiji.”

Response: Minister Hon. Seruiratu said that recent cyclones that had struck Fiji in the past few months had shown us the destructiveness of these natural disasters.

SERUIRATU: “A major challenged faced by the NDMO was communication systems which were severly damaged by the recent series of disasters. Another challenge faced by the NDMO is the damages done to infrastructure He said that in the event of any disaster, air, land and sea passage is important in response to having access to the people throughout Fiji remains a challenge.”


Question: Hon. Jilila Kumar to the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation:

“Can the Minister inform this House about Women Friendly Space, its functions and benefits.”

Response: Minister Hon. Rosy Akbar said the TC Winston left behind traumatic experiences among the people.

“The Women Friendly Space was set up to address issues woman and children may have experienced during TC Winston. The whole idea is to provide an environment where women and girls feel comfortable without any prejudice and judgements. The staff at the centre will ensure that best care and response is given to women and children at the centre. The first centre was established in Rakiraki and there are plans to set up other centres around the country.”

Hon. Salote Radrodro asked if there were any plans to visit the maritime islands. Hon. Akbar responded there were plans to set up eight other centres throughout Fiji.


Question: Hon. Alvick Maharaj to ask the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts:

“Can the Minister inform this House, what are some of the measures implemented to ensure that students are able to get back to school and their learning time lost, due to Tropical Cyclone Winston and other disasters are covered for.”

Withdrawn: Hon. Maharaj withdrew his question.


Presentation of Papers and Certain Documents

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum presented:
  • Fiji Public Trustee Cooperation Ltd Annual Report 2014.
  • The Public Rental Board Annual Report for 2014
  • Fiji Ports Corporation Ltd Annual Repor2014.
  • Airports Fiji Ltd Annual Reports for 2012,2013 and 2014.
Minister for Education Hon. Mahendra Reddy presented the Fiji National University Annual Report 2014.

Petition to reinstate the Great Council of Chiefs.

The Petition was defeated: 16 Yes | 29 No | 5 Not voted.

GAVOKA (11:50): “My heart is for this country to grow and to progress and have goodwill. Let us have the people of Fiji to have dialogue on this.  The GCC empowered us. There were confidence elements that the GCC provides to us leaders. GCC is a stabilising factor and should not be seen a threatening factor to anybody.”

MP Gavoka (11:46): speaking to the Fiji First MP’s “What we have here is to enable the people who voted for you to have dialogue on this petition. To have people air their views on this. If we don’t do this, their views will be suppressed and not heard. I am pleading with the members of the House to support this petition”

Opposition MP Jiosefa Dulakiverata (11:43): “We believe that Fiji needs a sunrise cross, where all will rise and meet for dialogue to move this nation forward”

Opposition Whip Prem Singh (11:39): ” It is a process where people’s voices ought to be known and not dismissed”

Opposition MP Aseri Radodro (11:35): ” What was the real reason for the disabling of the GCC, was there any research done by the Government? That is why opposition has brought forth this petition. “

Opposition MP Kiniviliame Kiliraki said the GCC is a ‘stabilising influence’.

KILIRAKI (10.50): “It is very important to have the GCC because it has a stabilising influence on the people. The people respect their chiefs and it is very disturbing Madam Speaker because we have a family of Vanua without the head (GCC)”.

SODELPA MP Hon. Salote Radrodro said the GCC had taken Fiji forward and represented the ‘fabric of society’.

RADRODRO (10:44) “Why are we denying the people the opportunity for their voices to be heard?”

SODELPA MP Hon. Semesa Karavaki came out strongly in support of the petition, saying people are asking why the GCC was not longer operational.

KARAVAKI (10:36) : “This will provide peace and security to the people. Let’s provide the avenue where we can hear the voice of the people” This is an opportunity to correct the wrong and engage the people holistically.”

SODELPA MP Ratu Suliano Matanitobua said he fully support the petition and hoped the people of Fiji would be able to vote on this petition.

National Federation Party President Tupou Draunidalo said the petition was to be referred to Committee, and not for anyone to decide on the merits or demerits here.

Opposition Whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca took a similar stance to his SODELPA colleagues.

TIKOCA (10.10): “Never in the history of our country has the GCC been belittled, as done by this government.”

National Federation Party Leader Dr Biman Prasad said he was not speaking to support this petition, but on petitions in general.  The Speaker reminded Dr Prasad only to speak on the merits and demerits of this particular petition.

PRASAD (10.07): “Petitions are an important way through which members of the public can bring about important questions to Parliament.”

Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa supported the petition.

KEPA (9.55): “This is a timely petition because we are committed to reinstating the GCC, in times past they have come to the assistance of the country, for example in the various coups.”

Opposition MP Hon. Ratu Sela Vuinakasa Nanovo supported the petition.

NANOVO (09.50): “The GCC in its wisdom has always made decisions for the benefit of all.”

Opposition MP Hon. Viliame Gavoka moved a petition to restore the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC).

GAVOKA (09.47): “This was a body, the apex of the itaukei community…It needs to be brought back to make this country stronger.”

Prayer, Confirmation of Minutes and Communications from the Chair

The Speaker of the House, Dr Jiko Luveni lead the House in Prayer.   The Minutes of the sitting of Parliament held on 12 February 2016 was adopted.

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