Honourable Members, I will now address the House on the issue of Hon. Mosese Bulitavu’s seat in Parliament.
- Honourable Members on 6 August 2021, I received a letter from the Social Democratic Liberal Party purporting to notify me under section 63(3) of the Constitution that the seat of Honourable Bulitavu as a member of Parliament is deemed to be vacant since Honourable Bulitavu allegedly failed to follow the directives of SODELPA in voting against the 2021-2022 Budget and the iTaukei Land Trust (Budget Amendment) Bill 2021 (‘Bill No. 17’) that were tabled in the July 2021 sitting of Parliament.
- On 7 August 2021 and on 10 August 2021 I also received a letter from Honourable Bulitavu stating that he questioned the validity of the directives that were issued by SODELPA.
- Honourable Members, section 63(1)(h) of the Constitution which provides that the seat of a member of Parliament becomes vacant if the member –
“votes or abstains from voting in Parliament contrary to any direction issued by the political party for which he or she was a candidate at the time he or she was elected to Parliament, without obtaining the prior permission of the political party.”
- Honourable Members, Standing Order 142 of the Parliamentary Standing Orders specifically provide that a notice given to the Speaker for the purposes of section 63(2), 63(3), or 63(4) of the Constitution must not be treated as having been received by the Speaker until the Speaker has confirmed, to his or her satisfaction, that the contents of the notice is accurate.
- On March 26 2020 I decided in accordance with Standing Order 20 that all voting will now be done by acclamation.
- This position on voting was reaffirmed by the Business Committee of Parliament at their meeting on 24 May 2021. Consequently on 25 May 2021 I conveyed the decision of the Business Committee to Parliament that voting on questions in Parliament will be done by acclamation.
- On 22 July 2021, the SODELPA Whip wrote to me and requested a vote by division for matters to be decided by Parliament in the July 2021 sitting.
- On 27 July 2021, I responded to her letter and upheld the decision of the Business Committee and stated that there will be no changes to the process of votes by acclamation in the Parliament
- Therefore, given that I am unable to determine how Hon. Bulitavu voted on the 2021-2022 Budget and Bill No. 17, his seat as a member of Parliament cannot be deemed vacant and he remains as a member of Parliament.
- Furthermore, from the respective letters sent to my office by SODELPA and Hon. Bulitavu, there appears to be an internal dispute as to whether the directions issued by SODELPA were valid.
- Honourable Members, therefore in accordance with Standing Order 142 of the Parliamentary Standing Orders, given that I am not satisfied that the contents of SODELPA’s 6 August 2021 letter is accurate, the letter is treated as not having been received by my office.
- However, if SODELPA believes that Hon. Bulitavu has acted contrary to section 63(1)(h) of the Constitution, and there was indeed a directive which he did not follow, by voting or acting contrary to the directions, then SODELPA is at liberty to itself file proceedings against Hon. Bulitavu in the Court of Disputed Returns for the Court to adjudicate on whether Hon. Bulitavu’s seat in Parliament is vacant.
Thank you Honourable Members.