Speaker Luveni’s claim in Parliament yesterday that her impartiality in conducting the business of the House was “guaranteed”, cannot be accepted.
To begin with she hails as a “true blue” Fiji First. She began her political career as Minister for Health in Bainimarama’s interim administration. She became party President with the formation of the Fiji First Party and fought the 2014 elections on an FF ticket and won. She then resigned to take on the post of Speaker.
Even under the flawed 2013 constitution, the Speaker should not be a member of parliament and is required to be independent in the exercise of his/her duties. The Speaker must not only be independent, but must be seen to be independent as well.
Jiko Luveni cannot be considered to be independent of party politics because of her candidature of the Fiji First in the 2014 elections. She resigned as a member of parliament to become Speaker.
“The game plan here was for Fiji First to exercise absolute control over parliamentary affairs and for that a particular Speaker was necessary. The Opposition had to be contained,” said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.
She would indeed have to be a saint not to show partiality towards the Fiji First. Her record in the House in the past three years has shown that she is not a saint. There have been numerous questionable rulings against members of the Opposition.
Under her stewardship, three Opposition members have been suspended from parliament on untenable grounds; a number of conventional parliamentary privileges and rights have been rescinded through amendments to Standing Orders using the FF’s majority in the House.
These actions have been condemned by the International Parliamentary Union which has called for the reinstatement of all suspended MPs.
Nay, there is no way the Speaker can label herself as being impartial in the conduct of her duties in the House.
But Minister for everything, AG Khaiyum, must of course have the last word on the issue. He issued a warning to Niko Nawaikula (FT 28/4/17), Opposition MP who raised the issue of Speaker’s impartiality, “to traverse softly in taking the name of the Speaker”.
Said Khaiyum: “He is imputing that we are interfering with your impartiality, that we are interfering with your independence.”
Yes, Mr Khaiyum you hit the nail on the head - that is the general perception in the country.
SPEAKER: No links to FijiFirst
The Fiji Times
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
SPEAKER of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni says she has severed all ties with the FijiFirst party by her resigning from the party when she was nominated the Speaker of the House.
After renewed claims for her to resign from her position as the head of the Parliament from political leaders who questioned her impartiality, Dr Luveni said she was no longer a member of the FijiFirst party and had nothing to do with its internal affairs.
In an interview yesterday, she said she was strongly cognisant of the need to always take decisions and utterances that were totally absent of perceived party or personal bias.
Dr Luveni said she respected and upheld the provisions of the Constitution and would not show preference or disrespect for any political party and that all Members of the Parliament must be treated equally.
She said she was well aware of the provisions of the Constitution under Section 77 which provided that the position was independent and impartial.
These, Dr Luveni said she had upheld in her rulings and in adherence to the Standing Orders.
"In many foreign parliaments, the Speaker is a party politician, and the same is true in Australia, New Zealand and many parliaments of the Commonwealth.
"In the New Zealand parliament, the Speaker is allowed to maintain links with his political party."
Dr Luveni affirmed that her impartiality in conducting the business of the House was well guaranteed in her adherence to the provisions of the Standing Orders and in her belief that she had a job to deliver effectively in order to maintain the confidence of the Parliament.
She said she was nominated by the Government on October 6, 2014 to be the Speaker of the House, and the Opposition did not submit any nomination.
Dr Luveni said over the years, she had ruled out both Opposition and Government for not complying with the Standing Orders.
"When points of Order are raised, the Speaker can only make a ruling if she is able to correct the misdemeanour in Parliament when a Member of Parliament is targeted, however, if the effect of the misdemeanour will affect the population (viewers) then this cannot be corrected in Parliament but is an issue that can be raised by a Member of Parliament for referral to the Privileges Committee."