Honourable Members, I will now address issues raised by the National Federation Party in regards to –
The Hon. Pio Tikoduadua stated that he had only read the email communication from the Secretariat on the morning of Monday, 28 February 2022, as he was in Ra “all weekend”. He then made the following recommendations in his communication –
Also in his communication, the Hon. Tikoduadua felt that the Flying Minute was “most unusual and illegal”. He does not provide any clarity on how this was illegal. Hon. Tikoduadua then argued that –
(a) “there is absolutely no need or urgency to send a flying minute for the sole purpose of tabling and debating a budget when a proper Business Committee has been properly scheduled for 3rd March 2022. And
(b) that “there is no direct bearing of a scheduled meeting of Parliament and a supplementary budget. A proper sitting of Parliament should not be set aside unless for a very very special reason. A revised budget is not a special reason. Parliament during the height of the COVID-19 crisis cancelled sittings. This is understandable. This removal of the sittings of Parliament in March is unnecessary uncalled for and illegal.”
Hon. Tikoduadua added that –
“the Speaker of Parliament and the Secretary-General to Parliament should defend Parliament’s interests and independence first and should not have entertained the proposal to set aside the March Parliament Sitting by the Government.”
He further stated that the Office of the Speaker –
“should have done to the Government proposal as it does to issues raised by the Opposition and that was for Tables to disallow it”.
Honourable Members should take note of the following –
At this juncture, I wish to inform all Honourable Members that a flying minute pertaining to the Revised Budget sittings and deferral of the March sitting to April, was communicated to the Business Committee which comprises four Members from the Government, two Members from SODELPA and two Members from the NFP. The Business Committee had three clear days to peruse its content and provide comments accordingly. No objections were received and following that, the final Order Papers were circulated to all Honourable Members.
There has been no subversion of Parliamentary democracy nor an ambush of Parliamentary processes. All Honourable Members will be given an opportunity to contribute to the debates. I remind Honourable Members that the job of the Opposition to hold the Government to account is not only limited to the budget processes. The Opposition has ample opportunity and space to voice its concerns and undertake oversight work through the various Parliamentary Committees. The Standing Committees allows all Members from both sides to ask critical questions and scrutinise public expenditures and the raising of revenue in the various implementing agencies of the Government. Additionally, the Opposition has further opportunity to undertake its oversight role through business brought to the floor of the House – such as debates on motions, petitions, Bills and question time and end of week statements.
I reiterate, that the Speaker’s Office and the office of the Secretary-General are here to serve the Honourable Members of Parliament. We are also here to ensure that Parliament undertakes its business in a timely and efficient manner. It would be unbecoming of an Honourable Member to question the integrity and the virtues of how each Parliament meeting or sitting is facilitated. The diligent facilitation of the Parliament sittings is duly undertaken to enable the Honourable Members of Parliament to undertake their legislative, representative and oversight mandates.