Leader of the Opposition, Voreqe Bainimarama has been suspended from Parliament for 3 years effective from tonight.
There were 27 ayes, 24 nos and 4 did not vote.
This is after the Leader of the Government in Parliament, Lynda Tabuya withdrew the earlier amendment motion and moved the original motion again that Bainimarama be suspended from parliament for 3 years effective immediately, to be served until 17th February 2026, that Bainimarama to issue a written apology to the President within 14 days from today February 17th 2023, that Bainimarama issues an apology to the public within 48 hours, that during the period of suspension Bainimarama is not allowed to enter the parliamentary precincts and that if Bainimarama fails to comply, necessary enforcement measures must be imposed to ensure compliance.
Tabuya had moved an amendment motion earlier for Bainimarama to be suspended for 18 months from parliament after breaching parliamentary privilege following a request by the Prime Minister and the Opposition MPs.
In the earlier amendment motion, Tabuya moved that Bainimarama issue a written apology to the President within 14 days from today February 17th 2023, that Bainimarama issues an apology to the public within 48 hours, that during the period of suspension Bainimarama is not allowed to enter the parliamentary precincts and that if Bainimarama fails to issue an apology as outlined, the penalties be served consecutively for a total of 3 years.
This followed the debate on the motion where the Parliamentary Privileges Committee recommended that Bainimarama be suspended for 3 years from parliament after breaching parliamentary privilege. The Opposition had requested for a 10 minute break to discuss the amendment motion and return to parliament.
Bainimarama was not present in parliament.
When the Opposition returned, they made it clear that Bainimarama will not apologise as he had done nothing wrong and they felt that the amendment motion would have been an apology and no suspension.
Parliamentary Privileges Committee Chair, Lenora Qereqeretabua had earlier tabled the committee report with recommendations.
Home Affairs Minister, Pio Tikoduadua had earlier said Bainimarama uttered words that are denigrating and humiliating to the Head of State and also as Commander-in-Chief when appealing to the rank and file of the RFMF which in view of Tikoduadua are highly seditious and disrespectful while dishonoring the dignity and bringing parliament into disrepute which contravene the parliamentary standing orders.
Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said the words used by Bainimarama are matters which are out of order in parliament and constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.
Bainimarama had said President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere has failed the Fijian people and he will go down in history as the person who aided and abetted the most incompetent and divisive government.
He also said unfortunately, he has to inform the rank and file of the RFMF that all the philosophical commitment and years of hard work of the RFMF is now being undermined and disregarded by this Government.
Bainimarama said the President who we looked up to because we believed that he genuinely believed in the values and principles of Constitution has done an about turn.
The Opposition Leader said Fijians, in particular the weak and vulnerable, those who want actual and practical implementation of the rule of law, those who want the practical implementation of the Constitution and those Fijians who want socio-economic stability, all look up to the RFMF to guarantee these if and when it is under threat.
He appealed to the rank and file of the RFMF to preserve their manna, to maintain their credibility and their calling and not forsake their constitutional role.
Bainimarama said he wishes to inform the RFMF that its gift and legacy, the Fijian Constitution, is being ignored and bashed on a daily basis and the current Prime Minister wants, what the RFMF worked so hard for, removed.
Section 62 of the parliamentary standing orders says when speaking a member must not impute improper motives to any other member.
It says the President’s name may not be introduced to influence Parliament or any committee, 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.
The standing orders also says 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.
Link for the Privileges Committee Report on the Referral of a Matter of Privilege against the Hon. Josaia Bainimarama: https://bit.ly/3YZ2eS4
Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says he wished the Privileges Committee had put a provision that if Leader of Opposition Voreqe Bainimarama elects to apologise then there would be a reduction in the severity of the award.
He has highlighted this while speaking on the motion following the Privileges Committee’s recommendation after Bainimarama’s breach of privilege.
Rabuka says Bainimarama will not get any benefit if he apologises to the President so he could rightly say that whether he apologises or not he could still be suspended for three years.
He says they have heard that Bainimarama has openly stated that he does not value matanigasau or apologies so if was forced to do a matanigasau, he could satisfy the order but there is no benefit for him.
The Prime Minister says they must maintain the dignity and decorum of Parliament and the language they use must be in keeping with the status they project to the people who voted them as leaders.
He further says the President is the Turaga Bale Na Tui Macuata and the Speaker is the Turaga Bale Na Tui Cakau.
Rabuka says they have heard the efforts of the Coalition Government to bring back the Great Council of Chiefs and it was the GCC that accepted their actions in 1987 and forgave them.
He says their forgiveness resulted in the provisions of immunity in the 1990 and then the 1997 Constitution.
He says it came from the hearts and the soul of the GCC.
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