Is Fiji going the Greece way?

  • 28th August 2015
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This is absolutely unheard of!
Parliament (the People’s Chamber) meeting in camera? Behind closed doors with no Hansard report of its proceedings?

The very concept is a mockery of Parliament. What is so secret in the affairs of the State that it must be hidden from the people? It is not as if we are in a state of war!

But then anything is possible under the Bainimarama/Khaiyum style of ‘democracy’ practised in Fiji.

This morning the House was cleared of the media and members of the public to allow Finance Minister Khaiyum to make a statement – unprecedented in Fiji’s parliamentary history!

Seeing that officials of the ‪#‎Finance‬ Ministry and the Reserve Bank were allowed to remain in the chamber, it seems the Minister of Finance’s‪#‎secret‬ statement had something to do with State finances.

But, if our finances are in a healthy state, as drummed into us at every opportunity, why then the need for secrecy?

Unless, of course, we are fast approaching a state of ‪#‎bankruptcy‬ which may require extra-ordinary measures to be taken to avoid a Greece-like crisis?

What was so exceptional about Khaiyum’s statement that it had to be kept secret from the people?

Section 72(2) of the Constitution makes it absolutely clear that parliament and its committees may not exclude the public, including the media, from any sitting unless, in exceptional circumstances, the Speaker may order the exclusion of the public on grounds that are reasonable and justifiable.

The operative phrase here is “on grounds that are reasonable and justifiable”.

To uphold the integrity of parliament, the Speaker must follow well established convention in such cases.

In this case: the Speaker has not given a justification.

If a member wants parliament to sit in camera, he/she must first make a request to the Speaker, giving reasons for the request.

The Speaker must then adjourn the House and consult the Leader of the Opposition before deciding on whether to grant or decline the request of the member.

If the request is granted, the Speaker must state the grounds for doing so.

From media accounts of what happened in Parliament this morning, this procedure was not followed.

Haven’t we been saying that this parliament is a sham?