Parliament

Bill to allow separate passports for Peacekeepers passed

A Bill to amend the “Passport Act of 2002” was enacted in parliament this afternoon. The amendment of the bill was taken for a second reading. Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the ammendment was to facilitate the granting of a special category of passports to soldiers undergoing peacekeeping missions to ensure […]

Salote Qalubau

June 2, 2016 4:30 pm

A Bill to amend the “Passport Act of 2002” was enacted in parliament this afternoon.

The Attorney-General and Minister for Finance  Aiyaz-Sayed-Khaiyum. (Radio NZ)
The Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Aiyaz-Sayed-Khaiyum. (Radio NZ)

The amendment of the bill was taken for a second reading.

Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the ammendment was to facilitate the granting of a special category of passports to soldiers undergoing peacekeeping missions to ensure they are able to travel freely in volatile areas mainly in the Middle East.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “Madam Speaker the bill is quite short in the sense that it lays our very clearly the provisions that relate to the issue of an official passport, you will see that it has the definition of specific forces.” 

“The questions was asked on Monday as to why these peacekeepers are given UN passports, these UN passports Madam speaker are given to officials of the United Nations not to peacekeeprers. The peacekeepers are contributing as part of general peacekeeping duties.”

In response opposition MP Hon. Ratu Isoa Tikoca said the motion for the amendment was atrocious and covert in nature.

He said the United Nations (UN) tasks officers with the responsibility to look after a specific place and reliance on soldiers, police and corrections officers to go anywhere would suggest that illegal activities were being conducted under the blue beret.

Hon. Tikoca added that it would be strange of the parliament to endorse t motion as such.

Opposition member Hon. Mosese Bulitavu raised concerns about soldiers not being accepted by countries that they were travelling to.

BULITAVU: “If they get an Israeli stamp they cannot enter into Syria or Lebanon but the Honorable Attorney-General has not explained to the house why this particular passport will also be stamped Madam Speaker because if you get the stamp the same thing will happen again because Israel will not accept Lebanon…stamped passports.”

Opposition member Hon. Prem Singh sought clarification on how the amendment would make travelling for peacekeepers easier for countries outside of Israel.

He also posed a question regarding why peacekeeping officials were facing visa restrictions when they are conducting various diplomatic missions.

Opposition member Hon. Niko Nawaikula said he failed to see how the issuing of an extra passport would allow troops to move freely.

Minister for Immigration, National Security and Defence Hon. Timoci Natuva said there was no such thing as covert operations occurring and the bill holds high importance in the Ministry of Defence  for participation of peacekeeping operations as well as the Fiji Police force, RFMF and the Fiji Corrections Services.

The amendment was passed after a total of twenty-eight agreed, sixteen voted against it while the remaining six did not vote.

The Attorney-General Hon. Aiyaz-Sayed-Khaiyum moved a motion today in Parliament for the ‘Passport Bill of 2002’ to be amended.

Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. (Fijian Government)
Attorney-General and Minister for Finance Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. (Fijian Government)

While moving the motion he said the bill must not be referred to the standing committee or any other committee but to be debated in Parliament.

The motion was agreed to after a total of twenty-five members voted in support of the motion, sixteen members did not agree while the remaining nine did not vote.

The AG said that the amendment is to add a new category to be called the “Fijians Official Passport” which will only be used by Fijian soldiers and other members of the “Discipline Force” in order to travel safely between the borders of all hostile countries while in peacekeeping duties.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “The bill should be debated on, in parliament and be reported by Parliament by Thursday of 2nd of June, 2016 and one hour should be given to be debated in Parliament before allowing the member of parliament to move this Bill.”

He said this was inclusive for current members of the Armed Force in the Middle East, specifically, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces soldiers deployed as peacekeepers in Sinai, Lebanon, and the Golan Heights.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “If the Fijian peacekeeper soldiers are based in Golan heights Madam Speaker there passport will be stamped with a Israeli stamp upon arrival on the other hand if any of the soldiers are based in the other Arab countries it would be stamped by that section of that country. Any movements along the boarders of these two countries cause an issue for our troops. Fijian soldiers handing in their passport in an Arab country with a Israeli stamp can cause their visa to be delayed or put on hold.”

The AG said in order to avoid such issues from happening the Fijian Government has been issuing Fijian soldiers with emergency passports.

SAYED-KHAIYUM: “In order to avoid these peacekeepers being stopped along borders, this new amendment of the bill will allow our peacekeeping soldiers to provide a new passport or called the official passport.”

Opposition Whip, Ratu Isoa Tikoca asked if the United Nations has been consulted about the issue.

The AG said that consultations have been conducted with the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Immigration, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, the Fiji Police Force, the Fiji Corrections Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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