The Fijian Parliament’s ability to continue Parliamentary business amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is attributed to the timely investments in its e-Parliament initiative which started in 2018 as well as the enabling provisions provided in the Standing Orders.
While addressing the members of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) Australia and Pacific Regional Hybrid Conference on the topic, ‘Fiji Parliament’s Response: Ensuring Business Continuity Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic’, Speaker Hon. Ratu Epeli highlighted that in this new normal, Parliaments should evolve and adapt their rules of procedures to allow Parliamentary processes to continue, which is essential for the continuance of Parliamentary democracy.
“Parliaments must make the necessary changes to their practices, procedures, and work culture to adapt to the effects of pandemics and other disasters,” Hon. Ratu Epeli said.
He highlighted that the Parliament hybrid sitting was a milestone in the history of the Fijian Parliament and Parliamentary democracy in Fiji.
“The livestreaming of Parliament sittings and Committee hearings, have ensured a wider reach, keeping Fijians informed and engaged with the business of Parliament, and thereby generating much public debate.”
“For the hybrid sitting, more than 50 percent of the Members attended the sitting virtually, with the remainder attending in-person and observing Parliament’s COVID-19 safe protocols. In total we have had 94 percent daily attendance in the period during which we had containment lockdowns, curfews, and a ban on inter-island travel.”
“During these hybrid sittings, Standing Committee reports, and Bills were tabled, debated, and passed by acclamation and were televised live on free-to-air TV and live-streamed on the Parliament’s website and Facebook page,” the Speaker said. This continuity of Parliament ensures and affirms the continuance of Parliamentary democracy.
The Hon. Speaker also acknowledged the successful partnership between the Fijian Parliament, the Government and the development partners of Australia, Japan and New Zealand under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Fiji Parliament Support Project (FPSP).