Democracy is made stronger when Parliament adapts to challenges – Hon. Speaker

Our democracy is made stronger when Parliament adapts to emerging challenges. The mandate of Parliament cannot be outsourced, it lies entirely with you, the elected representatives.

These were the comments by the Speaker of Parliament the Hon. Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu whilst opening the Members of Parliament Retreat at the Inter-Continental Resort in Natadola.

Attended by the Prime Minister the Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka, the Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Inia Seruiratu, Cabinet Ministers, Assistant Ministers and Opposition Members, the three-days retreat is an opportunity for the Members to re-arm themselves with information, knowledge and skills that are necessary to be effective legislators.

“The topics and thematic areas in the programme may not be new to you, but in this fast-changing world where Parliament needs to be kept abreast of complex issues and emerging challenges affecting our society, it is very critical that you as parliamentarians maintain a high level of competency and capacity to deal with these as legislators, representatives and in your oversight work.”

“There is a constant crucial need for parliamentarians to acquire the necessary capacity to fulfil and discharge their legislative, representative and oversight functions.”

The Hon. Speaker urged Members to reflect on their performance so far as a legislator, a representative of the people, a Committee Member, or any duties they have been tasked with since the beginning of this term of Parliament.

“Ask yourself a simple question – how can I be a better and effective parliamentarian or a better and effective Standing Committee Member?”

“Oversight, law making and public engagements are tasks that only you can perform, but you need to constantly be kept abreast of complex issues and at the same time strengthen parliamentary processes to deal with these.”

The Hon. Speaker acknowledged the presence of Members of Parliament from Australia, New Zealand, Bougainville, Tonga and the Seychelles and some highly experienced former parliamentarians as key resource personnel.

“We can never understate the importance of peer-to-peer learning. I believe that parliamentarians can learn from continuously engaging with their peers from other like-minded parliamentarians through regular collaboration, exchange of best practices and networking.”

“Whilst parliamentarians can learn from each other through debates, committee work and caucus discussions, the engagements with parliamentarians from other Parliaments adds value in capacity-building.”

The UNDP Resident Representative Ms Munkhtuya Altangerel highlighted that across the world, Parliaments are grappling with complex challenges that seem to become more complicated by the day.

“UNDP has been working to understand polycrises, where multiple ongoing sources of instability have created disruptions to supply chains, soaring inflation and stresses in our governance systems. Regulating in this environment requires long-term thinking and forces us to take into consideration the unknown.”

“At the same time, we cannot just deal with crises. We have to plan for the future we want to leave for our children, and deal with the long-term challenges that threaten progress towards sustainable and equitable development.”

The first session of the retreat covers areas of legislative functions: how Parliament is contributing to laws and reflections from Members of Parliament that visited Australia last month and a session on Strengthening Committees.

The retreat is made possible through the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji and with the generous support from the Governments of Australia, Japan, and New Zealand under the Fiji Parliamentary Support Project.