Sec 132 (2) (b) establishes the Leader of the Opposition as a permanent member of the Constitutional Officers Commission. And Sec132 (2) (e) provides for the Leader of the Opposition to advise the President of her nominee
In November 2015 following the sudden departure of the former Commissioner of Police, the Commission, without [proper] discussion, appointed Qiliho as Acting Commissioner of Police. Mr [Richard] Naidu, Ro Teimumu’s nominee on the COC, threatened to resign if the COC did not operate professionally. The Leader of the Opposition wrote to the Prime Minister on November 12th recording her support for her nominee Richard Naidu and his threat to resign. In her letter Ro Teimumu called for Qiliho’s appointment to be revoked and the highest ranking Police officer to be appointed Acting Commissioner.
In the same communication the Leader of the Opposition referred to an earlier breach of process outlined in her 2nd of November statement on the last minute extension of Acting Military Commander Naupoto’ s appointment, without the COC meeting or discussing it saying quote ‘unless the Commission handled its affairs in a transparent and accountable way, she would play no further part in it.
Ro Teimumu endorsed Mr. Naidu’s remarks that the COC had become an ‘electronic rubber stamp’ and further stated quote ‘While this may well suit the Government, as Opposition Leader I will not be a party to such a sham’ unquote. In the same letter she stated that if Mr. Naidu resigns she was putting the PM on notice that she would withhold submitting the name of a replacement until such time as the COC commits to enhancing its standards of conduct and generally follow proper procedures’
This is the position that Ro Teimumu Kepa took and maintained for the past 14 months, satisfied that all appointments made in this period by the COC cannot be constitutional if the Opposition Leader and her nominee are not part of the process or decision.
I have no doubt that if SODELPA was a united and focused organization as they once were, the caucus and management would have supported and continued Ro Teimumu’s 14 month old protest, however because divisions remain, they opted instead to pressure the Leader of the Opposition into filling the vacancy which will in the end negate the importance of Ro Teimumu’s protest, and help facilitate government’s ‘electronic rubber stamping’ because if Mr Rabuka attends the COC meetings, he will in effect be supporting government’s use of their majority on the COC to push through all constitutional appointments.
They will now be able to say the Opposition was involved in the process, even though they will ignore any opposition views or input as they have done since the COC started.
So this decision to put Mr. Rabuka in there reflects the wishes of the SODELPA caucus and party leadership."
As to what position the Leader of the Opposition will take on the COC given this development, I personally hope she maintains her yearlong protest as outlined in her letter to the PM dated November 12th 2015.
It is also my opinion that since the questionably elected management board confirmed Mr. Rabuka as leader against the wishes of the elected Leader of the Opposition- the party leader and management board have taken full advantage of the amended constitution which they brought with them which has greatly reduced the independence and powers of the Leader of the Opposition to one of almost a figure head while the un-elected and un-mandated officials of the party call the shots. There has effectively been a political coup within that party to override the votes and voice of those who elected their Members to make very important decisions for them.
"Given the ongoing internal conflict within SODELPA, I believe that Ro Teimumu will have to continue to balance her loyalty to the 49,000 voters and loyal supporters who voted her in (by remaining in parliament, working for them) with the direction and demands of the new party leadership"
Prime Minister and Chairman of the Constitutional Offices Commission Voreqe Bainimarama says he is disappointed with the Leader of Opposition Ro Teimumu Kepa who has not attended any Constitutional Offices Commission meetings since May 2015.
Bainimarama made this clear in parliament today when asked by SODELPA parliamentarian, Semesa Karavaki on why there has been no regular updates and advice from the commission on matters relating to its functions and responsibilities in accordance with the constitution.
The Prime Minister says the commission has always provided updates to all Fijians through prompt media statements on the appointments made by the President on the advice of the commission to every single one of the constitutional offices.
Bainimarama says the commission will continue to update the public about its decisions and in due course will table its report to parliament.
Opposition Leader, Ro Teimumu Kepa tried to make a statement on why she has not been attending the commission meetings however she was told that she can only ask questions based on the question raised by Karavaki.
NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad then asked for an assurance that the commission’s work is independent.
Bainimarama said the commission’s decisions are independent.
Ro Teimumu’s nominee for the commission is SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka.
The Constitutional Offices Commission consists of the Prime Minister who is the chairperson, the Leader of Opposition, the Attorney General, two persons appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister and one person appointed by the President on the advice of the Leader of Opposition.
The commission is responsible for providing advice to the President for the appointment of the chairperson and members of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission, the chairperson and members of the Electoral Commission, Supervisor of Elections, Secretary General to Parliament, chairperson and members of PSC, Commissioner of Police, Commissioner of Fiji Corrections Service, Army Commander, Auditor General and Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji. Source: Fijivillage News, 6 February 2017