Ruling in relation to Petition for Parliament to inquire into domestic violence in Fiji

Honourable Members, I now refer to the second petition that I will rule on today pursuant to Standing Order 37.

I received a petition from the Honourable Lynda Tabuya on 3 March 2020 for tabling in Parliament on 16 March 2020. As with the first petition, this petition is being considered today as the March sitting of Parliament was dedicated to the urgent consideration of the COVID-19 Response Budget.

The petition is in relation to domestic violence in Fiji and calls for “a parliamentary inquiry into the steps we need to take as a nation to save lives and preserve our people”.

I will not repeat the provisions of the Standing Order referred to in the ruling I have just delivered, but in the same vein I note that this petition does not request a clear action to be taken by Parliament. The petition seeks an inquiry under what appears to be the presumption that Parliament itself will recommend the actions to be taken to address domestic violence in Fiji.

Honourable Members, the legislature, through the Domestic Violence Act 2009 has set out a legal framework for addressing domestic violence in Fiji. Furthermore, the Government has also sought to address this issue through the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation and the Women’s Plan of Action, domestic violence helpline, ‘no-drop policy’ and other policy initiatives which have been discussed in Parliament through Ministerial Statements, motions, questions and reports.

The Office of the Auditor-General in August of last year submitted a performance audit report to the Speaker of Parliament on the coordination of actions for the elimination of violence against women, with specific and comprehensive recommendations for improvement.

These actions are the clear specific ways in which violence against women has been addressed thus far. A petition that calls for further action must clearly state what action needs to be taken, and only then may such action be scrutinised to determine if it is action which is within the powers of Parliament to take.

Honourable Members, as representatives of the people you are drivers of action and agents of change. You are already in a position to work with the people and seek out new and innovative ways to address serious public justice issues. Outside of Parliament you may call for dialogue and conversation but when a petition is brought to Parliament, it must come with a confident call for clear and specific action.

As such, I rule that this petition cannot be tabled in Parliament as it does not meet Parliament’s Petition Standards and the requirements under Standing Order 37.