Hon. Speaker’s Communication on the Business Committee Decision and Matter of Privilege

Business Committee Decision

Honourable Members at this juncture, I will reiterate my communication on Friday, 3rd February 2023, whereby I had informed on the decision of the Business Committee. The Business Committee had resolved and agreed through vote that Standing Orders 28, to some extent 29, and Standing Order 30, be waived. This waiver allows the use of the vernacular languages, the provision of the vernacular translation in the Hansard reports, and lastly, for the Speaker to pray the way that he wishes to pray and will not be offended if someone else comes and prays the way they pray.

As most of you may be well aware, precedence has been set in the last two terms of Parliament where at the Business Committee level, matters are raised, discussed and determined by the Business Committee, and following that, the Speaker formalises the decision on the floor of Parliament – which is also exactly what I had done on Friday, 3rd February.

The Honourable Leader of the Opposition is a member of the Business Committee and he was present at that meeting where he also participated in the deliberations. Therefore, his obvious disregard to the Business Committee decision as well as the communication on Friday, 3rd February comes as a surprise because he was present at that meeting. The Business Committee had resolved and agreed through vote.

Honourable Members, I reiterate that the Business Committee had agreed to these issues through vote and therefore, that will be the end of the matter.

Matter of Privilege

On another matter Honourable Members, I received a notification on Monday afternoon from the Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration the Hon. Pio Tikoduadua raising a matter of privilege pursuant to Standing Order 134. The matter of privilege is against the response to His Excellency’s Address by the Leader of the Opposition the Hon. Josaia Bainimarama on Monday, 13 February 2023.

In accordance with Standing Order 134 clause (2), the Hon. Tikoduadua has in his notification outlined the facts and the resulting grounds on which the Hon. Tikoduadua believes that there has been a breach of privilege. The facts and the grounds notified by the Hon. Tikoduadua are as follows –

“that on the morning of 13th February, 2023 during the debate on the motion to thank His Excellency the President for his most gracious speech, the Hon. Josaia Bainimarama uttered words that are “denigrating  and humiliating to the  Head of State His Excellency the President also as Commander in Chief, while appealing “to the rank and file in the RFMF” which in the view of the Hon. Tikoduadua are highly seditious and disrespectful while dishonouring the dignity and bringing Parliament into disrepute, which are contravention of Standing Order 62 clauses (3) and (4).

I have now had the opportunity to review the uncorrected Hansard report for Monday, 13 February 2023, I have considered the matter raised by the Hon. Tikoduadua and decided as follows –

Privilege is accorded to everyone in this House as a matter of right. Standing Order 133, which states that –

“Every Member, and any other person speaking in Parliament, has –

  • Freedom of speech and debate in Parliament, subject to these Standing Orders.”

Therefore, any Member can say whatever they want in this House but what you say in Parliament is subject to the Standing Orders. The dignity and respect of this House must at all times be upheld.

In this respect, Standing Order 62 clause (3) states –

“The conduct of members, the President, the Chief Justice (performing the functions of the office of President under section 88 of the Constitution), members of the judiciary, or other persons acting in a judicial capacity must not be raised, except on a motion with notice introduced with the Speaker’s permission. In any other situation, reference to the conduct of any of these individuals is out of order.”

Clause (4) states –

“It is out of order for a Member, when speaking, to use –

  • Offensive words against Parliament or another Member;
  • Treasonable words;
  • Seditious words; or
  • Words that are likely to promote or provoke feelings of ill-will or hostility between communities or ethnic groups within Fiji.”

The words used by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition are matters which are out of order in this Parliament and constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.

Given the above, pursuant to Standing Order 134 clause (2)(a) and Standing Order 127 clause (2)(c), I have decided there is a prima facie breach of privilege and I hereby refer the matter to the Privileges Committee for its consideration. The Privileges Committee is directed to meet from lunch time today on 15 February 2023 and provide its report for tabling in Parliament on Friday, 17 February 2023, and Parliament shall consider the Report of the Privileges Committee.