Live Blog: Parliament April 26

The April sitting of the Parliament of Fiji started yesterday. The Order Paper for today’s session is available for download here.  The live stream for Parliament is available here. Consideration of Bills False information Bill (26 of 2016) The motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 14 No | 7 Not voted The Attorney General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum moved a […]


April 26, 2016 9:57 am

The April sitting of the Parliament of Fiji started yesterday. The Order Paper for today’s session is available for download here.  The live stream for Parliament is available here.

Consideration of Bills

  • False information Bill (26 of 2016)

The motion was agreed: 29 Yes | 14 No | 7 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: “About 30-40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. We cannot go out and check every single home but we expect that people who come in and fill in the application form are honest about it.

“People who give false information in receiving government funds should be held accountable and compensate the State for the amount that they received. These are some initiatives that this bill has in place.”

“The penalty is quite high compared to the crimes decree which has 1 year imprisonment. This bill has 5-10 years imprisonment. It is basically telling people to not do it. We need to ensure that money that give out is given out in a prudent manner. You must be the person entitled to it, you must provide the correct and proper information and than you will get the assistance needed.”

Opposition Member Hon. Semesa Karavaki in his response said:

KARAVAKI: “It is so complicated. You should have gone to the committee to have it looked at. I can see a lot of tidying up. The bill needs to be drafted in a positive way and not negative. I find it so difficult to understand. The bill also cooperates Part 7 of the Crime Decree.”

“I don’t see the urgency of bringing this bill under section 51. The only urgency I see is the increase of the penalty in this bill which is 10 years whereas the crimes decree is 1 year. I suggest that the AG take this bill back and amend it. The people of Fiji does not deserve this kind of law.”

In support of the Bill Hon. Faiyaz Koya said:

KOYA: “I support the bill and if you read the bill. This bill will strengthen the institution. It clearly states that if the assistance or grant was used for something other than what it was intended for. The grants received should not be misused. The government is investigating $60-70 million dollars that was handed out to the people. We want each individual who fills in this application to do so with honesty and this is another approach to help rebuild the country.”

NFP leader and Opposition member of Parliament Hon. Biman Prasad said:

PRASAD: “Laws by itself do not deter people from committing offenses. I think the penalties in this bill is too draconian. I think the message we ought to send out, should be to people who are doing the assessment and helping those people receive assistance.”

Opposition member Hon. Mosese Bulitavu also contributed to the one hour of debate:

BULITAVU: “There are numerous issues here in the bill that government has failed to highlight. The method that is implemented by government needs to be re-looked. The Prime Minister needs to set up a committee to deal with TC Winston rehabilitation, rebuilding and recovery and be given to the Ministry of Women to be looked after.”

In response to the opposition after the one hour of debate the AG said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “This assistance given out by government are going to individuals and no one else. There is dishonesty going on. This is law has a purpose and we are simply asking people to fill out the form with honesty. If you are not going to fill out this form correctly than why cant you fill this form under this law. The DPP will do prosecution on this.”

  • Forest Bill 2016 (Second Reading)

The Attorney-General said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “The bill ensures the preservation of our forests. This bill endeavors the government policy on environment legislation. This bill also allows the forestry ministry department to measure timber extraction and to establish greater partnership for forest development.”

Responding to the AG was the Hon. Tupou Draunidalo said:

DRAUNIDALO: “Landowners should get a copy of this bill and have it taken to their lawyers for clarification.

Hon. Kiniviliame Kilivaki said:

KILIRAKI: “In terms of transparency and accountability, I hope the bill will take into consideration the existing Mahogany bill. In terms of logging practices and environments compliance.”

In response the AG said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “Despite having the largest mahogany planted land in the world, we need a different approach and outlook on this.”

The bill has been referred to a standing committee after all members of parliament did not oppose.

The Attorney-General also spoke on the Aquaculture bill.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “The bill was tabled in parliament on February 2016 in parliament. Nation wide consultation was made on this bill. The bill will be the first legal framework in Fiji to regulate and protect maritime organisms.”

In response Hon. Tupou Draunidalo said:

DRAUNIDALO: “The aquaculture bill will wholly remove the Fisheries Act that we currently have.” The Fisheries Act protect iTaukei fishing rights”.

The AG responded that there are no intentions to remove the Fisheries Act and that the aquaculture bill is under review.

All members agreed for the bill to be read for the second time, the bill has been referred to the Standing Committee Natural Resources.

  • Rotuma Bill 2015 (Second Reading)
  • Rotuma Lands Bill 2015 (Second Reading)

The Attorney-General Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum called for the ‘Rotuma Bill’ and the ‘Rotuma Lands Bill’ to read in parliament for the second time.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “It gives the Rotuman people more say in governance and the governance of its people”.

All members agreed for the bill to be read for the second time, the two bills have been referred to the relevant committees.

The AG also tabled the Code of Conduct bill which will be discussed in parliament on a later date.

Ministerial statements

  • Minister for Education, Heritage, and Arts Hon. Mahendra Reddy

REDDY: “Many schools have been clearly wiped out while others suffered severe damages. The Bainimarama government announced after the disaster that education be its top priority. The government realised that bringing children to school soon after the natural disaster will help them deal with the traumatic experience of the cyclone.”

Minister Reddy said an estimated cost of $58.7 million worth of damages was done to schools with another $4 million cost of damages were conducted for the Fiji National University’s campuses in Ba and Raiwai.

The Education minister informed parliament that all schools have been advised to allow all students to attend school.

REDDY: “Some students have lost all books, uniforms or shoes. Schools have been advised to allow students to still attend.”

“232 schools around Fiji have received new textbooks from the government after the disaster cyclone Winston.”

Opposition member Hon. Mikaele Leawere thanked the overseas donors, NGOs and individuals who helped the education sector in the aftermath of the cyclone.

Hon. Prem Singh in response to the Education Minister’s ministerial statement pointed the issue thieving during cyclone Winston.

SINGH: “Police should look into this and people should be taken to task.”

  • Minister for Health Hon. Jone Usamate
USAMATE: “Even though we had damage to health facilities, services continued. In the long term the focus has turned to the reconstruction of health facilities so even though in the worst cyclones, health facilities will still be functioning. Ministry for Health response to TC Winston was divided into 3 phases:
  1. Response and dealing with traumatic injuries.
  2. Health assessments and health promotions. The intent is to reach every community at least twice. Outreach teams visiting and mitigate NCD.
  3. Looking at the long-term and short-term rehabilitation works.

“Over one hundred thousand and two hundred people have received medical assistance.”

“$5.45 million worth of medical assistance have been received by the Ministry of Health.”

“Vaccination of typhoid had begun last week and this is another way of combating typhoid, members of the community need to take pro-active measures of destroying mosquito breeding places.”

Hon. Usamate told parliament that the areas most affected by the TC Winston was the Eastern Division.

USAMATE: “There was a total of 16 deaths in the Eastern Division alone and most of these deaths was attributed to drowning due to the storm surge on the islands.”

“We have had no major outbreak of diseases except for conjunctivitis or Cika.”

Opposition member Hon. Anare Vadei thanked the Ministry of health for their evacuation plan and response during TC Winston. NFP Leader Hon. Biman also thanked all medical

In response the NFP Leader Hon. Biman Prasad also thanked all medical staff who helped those affected by the TC Winston.

PRASAD: “They ought to be the real heroes during that time despite the damaged facilities and transport difficulties.”

Hon. Prasad added that a lot of problems within the Ministry of health have been exposed due to the disaster.

PRASAD: “The Ministry of Health cannot complain about resources. The national budget showed a reasonable amount allocation to the Ministry.”

Hon. Prasad said the cleanliness of health facilities need to be addressed.

  • Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola informed parliament on the new established Fiji diplomatic mission in Ethiopia.

KUBUABOLA: “We plan on living posting footprints all over the world. Ethiopia was one of the founding members in the United Nations. Ethiopia holds 85 other diplomatic missions. The move would see Fiji further our development with the African countries.”

“Also to safe guard Fiji’s international trade. Engaged and support our national development. To support good governance. To enhance Fiji’s relationship with Africans and Fijians.”

Minister Kubuabola informed parliament on the closure of the Fiji mission in Pretoria, South Africa and that it has moved to Ethiopia.

Opposition Member Hon. Tupou Draunidalo responded to the Minister’s ministerial statement:

DRAUNIDALO: “We have not heard enough of why we are in Africa. Is that where our tax payers money will be used in foreign investment?

Hon. Draunidalo also informed the parliament that more consultant trade offices should be set up in Australia and New Zealand rather than Africa.

DRAUNIDALO: “There is a great advantage to Fiji, close in terms of proximity. We don’t need to go there and learn things.”

Speaking on behalf the opposition Hon. Viliame Gavoka said:

GAVOKA: “We dont need to be setting up offices in far away places.”

“Why don’t we set up in Jerusalem. They are the centre of gravity. Fiji would do well to link up with Israel.”

Parliamentary Questions

Question: Hon. Viliame Gavoka to ask the Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources:

“Can the Minister provide answer on the claim by the people of Mataqali Nabure of Nadrala village in Nadroga/Navosa relating to unpaid royalty due to them for the excavation of gravel from their land at Kavanagasau from 1963 to 1989.”

Response: Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa said

VUNIWAQA: ‘Gravel in the river belongs to State.

Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa said the iTLTB provides licenses to extract gravel from rivers when responding to Opposition member Hon. Mosese Bulitavu.

Question: Hon. Prof. Biman Prasad to ask the Attorney­­­­-General and Minister for Finance, Public Enterprises, Civil Service, and Communications:

“When will Government, in accordance with the Attorney-General’s information to this Parliament in December 2014, as well as His Excellency the President’s Address last September, introduce Bills in Parliament with a view to enacting the following legislation pertaining to Accountability as per Chapter 8 of the Constitution on freedom of information as per section 150 of the Constitution.”

Response: Hon. Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “In regards to the constitution on the freedom of information, this is rather large piece of document. A very complicated document. We have a 1st draft and 2nd draft. We also have sort out the assistance of the governing section of the UNDP for their input and has been forwarded to them.”

The AG informed parliament that that once they received the draft from the UNDP, it will then be tabled in parliament.

Question: Hon. Ratu Sela Nanovo to ask the Attorney­­­­-General and Minister for Finance, Public Enterprises, Civil Service, and Communications:

“Can the Minister confirm to this House if the Tropical Cyclone Winston Hurricane Assistance that the Prime Minister recently announced on Saturday, 2nd April, 2016 is a partial assistance and if the cost of materials that will be bought under the scheme will be VAT exclusive.”

Response: Hon. Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said:

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “This is not a partial assistance given to individuals who suffered during the recent disaster. No money comes out of their pocket, it comes from government. So VAT exempt does not apply. The assistance being provided to ordinary Fijians, there are homes being built through NGO’s.

“This is a first time any government has provided any form of direct assistance to its people. No other government has done it. No other government has given hardware directly to its citizens.”

Question: Hon. Salote Radrodro to ask the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure and Transport:

“Can the Minister advise this House as to when the repair works for jetties damaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston such as Lomaloma, Cicia, Nabouwalu, Taveuni and others will start.”

Response: Hon. Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Infrastructure, and Transport Pravin Kumar said:

KUMAR: “All these jetties are up and running. During the cyclone, 10 jetties were damaged. 9 of those jetties have been repaired. These repairs cost $700,000.”

Hon. Niko Nawaikula in a supplementary question said, “Temporary repairs do not last and are a risk for accidents.”

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

“Tropical Cyclone Winston has exposed the weak link of building structures in most rural and maritime islands, as indicated by the number of buildings that were vastly damaged, Can the Minister brief this House as to what are the plans in place to improve the construction of houses in compliance to the national building code.”

Response: Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Hon. Inia Seruiratu said:

SERUIRATU: “We have a building code, but at this stage there is commttiee under the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The Fiji building code was introduce to Fiji in 1990 after the experiences of cyclones in 1970 and 1980. People were given options to follow the building code in rural areas. Everyone must invest in their homes. The quality of the materials,quality of workmanship and the law itself.”

Opposition member Hon. Mosese Bulitavu asked the Minister Seruiratu asked a supplementary question on how will the ministry monitor those with cards issued by the government, purchase or build homes according to the code?

Minister Seruiratu responded:

SERUIRATU: “With the initiative to Build Back Better and Safer, we will enforce the national building code.”  

“Those who don’t want to come under the housing initiative can go ahead and rebuild. There are about 31,000 homes that needs to be built whether partial and fully.”

Question: Hon. Balmindar Singh to ask the Minister for Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations:

“Can the Minister advise this House on the progress the Ministry has made on investigating complaints against security companies in Fiji.”

Response: Minster for Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations Hon. Semi Koroilavesau said:

KOROILAVESAU: “Our Ministry is working over-time to get the amount that is owed from security companies.”

Minister Koroilavesau said that over $2million is owed to security workers.

Opposition Member Hon. Viliame Gavoka is a supplementary question said:

GAVOKA: “The security workers are usually the lowest paid employees in Fiji. In govt can we consider discouraging or set a minimum cost of security companies in Fiji. To bring the minimum wage to a higher level and pay decent wages to its workers.

Minister Koroilavesau said that there is no minimum wage legislation for security workers in Fiji.

Question: Hon. Dr Brij Lal to ask the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts:

“Can the Minister brief this House on what are the roles and functions of the Higher Education Commission.”

Response: Minister for Education, Heritage, and Arts Hon. Mahendra Reddy said:

REDDY: “Higher Education Commission is the holder of data from all tertiary institutions. The primary.”

Opposition member Hon. Leawere asked: “How is the appointment of the board done?

Minister Reddy said:

REDDY: “Appointments of the board is done with consultations with the Prime Minister”.

In a supplementary question Opposition Member Hon. Niko Nawaikula asked:

NAWAIKULA: “What is the role of the FHEC in the vetting of degrees that are coming our of tertiary institutions?

Minister Reddy said:

REDDY: “The large institutions like USP, UniFiji, FNU and Fulton college, they have their own mechanisms.

Presentation of Papers and Certain Documents

The Hon. Netani Rika presented:

  • Immigration, National Security and Defence Annual Report 2013

The debate on the report will be debated on a later sitting.

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