Fiji’s Minister for Lands Filimone Vosarogo has defended the coalition government’s decision to support the postponement of parliament rather than convening without the Opposition, citing the importance of democracy and representation.
“It’s a more mature position to take…we all agree with it and that is the position we took,” Vosarogo said, responding to claims that the decision by the Fiji Parliament business committee to postpone parliament to a later day, to allow the Opposition to take their seats, signalled weakness on the part of the coalition government.
Vosarogo insisted that convening parliament without the opposition would deny the elected members the chance to represent their constituents. Opposition members would not have been available to sit in the Parliament sitting as the FijiFirst Party was suspended, until late Friday afternoonn, when the suspension was lifted.
“For the coalition government to agree that Parliament convenes at a later date when the members of the opposition are available is a more mature position than to have parliament sit and for the whole of Fiji to see that 24 members of parliament that they elected into parliament didn’t have the opportunity to represent them and represent their voice,” Vosarogo said.
In the statement released around 4.15 pm last Friday to advise on the postponement of this week’s sitting, the Fiji Parliament stated that the decision was made “to allow the Coalition Government to ensure the efficient and effective preparation of the 2023-2024 National Budget before it is tabled in Parliament.”
The Parliament statement was released less than 15 minutes after Fiji’s Registrar of Political Parties released their statement advising on the lifting of FijiFirst’s suspension.
Earlier on Friday, FijiFirst wrote to the Acting Registrar challenging the Office to lift their suspension and allow their “full participation in the Constitutionally mandated Parliamentary Democracy” process.
In the letter obtained by the media, FijiFirst stated that “it is imperative for any true and functioning parliamentary democracy that opposition parties (and in the case, the only opposition party) return to Parliament without delay, and all fill all 26 seats as allocated to the party in the 2022 General Elections. You aware that as secretary to the Electoral Commission of the outrageously unnescessary situation that exists regarding the filling of the vacancies in the FijiFirst (in suspension) seats in Parliament.”
FijiFirst had their registered status suspended due to a delay in submitting audited accounts, hindering their participation in parliamentary activities including committee meetings such as the business committee briefings. Their participation was only reinstated after 4 pm Friday after their submission of audited accounts.
The business committee comprises the speaker Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu as the chairperson, the Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, Deputy PMs Viliame Gavoka and Professor Biman Prasad, Leader of Government in Parliament Lynda Tabuya and four opposition members including Leader of Opposition Inia Seruiratu.