"The Opposition stands ready to work with the government in the overall relief effort. We are all in this together. Never has there been a greater need for bi-partisan co-operation and pooling resources."
The Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said the President Jioji Konrote must call a meeting of Parliament without delay for the country’s supreme governing institution to make decisions on the unprecedented crisis caused by Cyclone Winston.
Ro Teimumu said Sec 67 (4) of the constitution is very clear, If (a) Parliament is not in session; and (b) the President receives a request in writing from not less than one third (17) of the members of Parliament requesting that Parliament be summoned to meet to consider without delay a matter of public importance, the President shall summon Parliament to meet.
Ro Teimumu said the 17 Opposition members have complied with these provisions and have signed a request to the President which was delivered on March 3rd. The provisions of 67 (4) are very clear, the President must act on the members request. He has no discretion in the matter.
With regards to comments attributed to the Speaker, indicating Parliament is not likely to meet? I am not clear why she is commenting on our petition because it was addressed to the President not the Speaker, but even if we used S67 (5) which involves the Speaker it still says if no less than one third of the members of Parliament requesting that a sitting be held to consider without delay a matter of public importance. - The Speaker must call a sitting of Parliament within one week of the date on which the request was made.
She has no discretion and in fact she is obliged to act within one week from the date of the request, under s 67(5). In this case, the Opposition is acting under s.67 (4), which - with respect - does not involve the Speaker at all.
It is now twelve (12) days since the Opposition communicated with the President and so far he has been silent. If His Excellency declines to respond, the Opposition must then consider options open to it.
It has been three weeks since the destructive force of Winston struck, multiple nations have come to our aid, millions of dollars in cash and kind have poured in, many people have begun receiving aid and support, and many more are still waiting.
Government must now report to the people through their Parliament, the people must be told the extent of the damage, how much it’s likely to cost, how much can we expect from aid and how much will we need to raise from our own resources to pay for the rebuilding of the nation. Those affected need to know how long it will all take and how do we cushion the impact on those affected in the meantime.
Decisions must be taken on realigning or deferring planned expenditure in the 2016 Budget.
All the donor nations and their taxpayers are entitled to be told, through Parliament, about the progress of the government’s plans for on-going management of the crisis and the large flow of aid. Our own citizens need to be informed, they are the key stakeholders, especially those who have lost everything in Fiji’s worst natural disaster.
It is crucial that accountability, transparency and appropriate standards of governance are maintained as the country grapples with the ruin and tragedy of Winston. That will give confidence to the international community to give more and more meaningfully (targeted assistance).
Ro Teimumu said at a time of national crisis such as we have now, national unity becomes vital, because in order for us to complete the task of the magnitude that Cyclone Winston had bought to bear on us, we all need to be on the same page, and we need to use everyone we can in order to spread our advantage and lessen the burden on anyone individual, and we all need to be focused on achieving as much as we can in the quickest time possible.
The reality is that we cannot expect the supporting nations to be here permanently to fix all the Cyclone Winston related damage for us, they will certainly help restore things and get our people back on their feet with the basics, but at some stage their efforts will come to an end and they will leave and it will once again fall to us to finish the job.
So a focused, unified and committed team involving both the Government, Opposition, Private sector and NGO’s and the International community will yield better results than a divided one and my offer of support to the Prime Minister remains open and all he needs do is to accept it in the same way he has accepted every other offer of help both local and international.
The Opposition stands ready to work with the government in the overall relief effort. We are all in this together. Never has there been a greater need for bi-partisan co-operation and pooling resources.
We have announced how our parliamentarians will contribute financially to the fundraising. We have met with many victims and assured then we will relay their pressing and desperate needs to government. Some of our members are distributing aid they have gathered from their own resources.
Ro Teimumu said she and her parliamentary colleagues began visiting affected areas two weeks ago and again on the 11th of March (19) days since Winston, during another round of visits we learned that the village of Mataso and Nakorotubu for instance had still not received rations and that was 4 days ago. So while some are getting rations, others are still waiting. Ro Teimumu said she had also commenced visiting representatives of donor nations to personally thank them for their timely and generous support, offered in the best spirit of international humanitarianism.
We shall never forget what they are doing for Fiji and our people.
Ro Teimumu Kepa
Speaking to Fijivillage, Doctor Jiko Luveni said how can she call parliament knowing that many people need immediate attention and comfort.
Doctor Luveni said there are more important issues to address rather than going and sitting in parliament.
She said this is also the reason why the President is not responding to the issue at this time.
Doctor Luveni said government members are on the ground to ensure that people get immediate assistance, and people should understand the current situation.