SUVA (The Fiji Times/ Radio New Zealand International/ Pacific Media Watch): Fiji's Tui Cakau (Paramount Chief of Cakaudrove Province) Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who is also an MP, has been suspended from Parliament.
He has been suspended for two years for a "serious" breach of parliamentary privilege, uttering a slur against the Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni, during the SODELPA (Social Democratic Liberal Party) constituency meeting earlier this month.
The decision was made after Parliament passed a motion by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum to suspend Ratu Naiqama based on the recommendation of the Privileges Committee.
The House upheld the motion that Ratu Naiqama be suspended with immediate effect; that he issue a public apology in writing to the Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni; and that he must not be allowed to enter the parliamentary precincts, including the Opposition office during his suspension.
Ratu Naiqama apologises
The Fiji Times also reported the MP had apolgised for his actions.
”To the people that voted me into that House, I must apologise for what I have done given the decision of Parliament," Ratu Naiqama told The Fiji Times at Parliament last night.
"I want to reassure you all that whatever fight that SODELPA will undertake on behalf of its members and supporters will continue with much more vigour.
"Be rest assured that the SODELPA flag will always be flying high given this unfortunate incident that has happened, which I respect”.
Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said: ”Many of us have not heard the recording so natural justice has not been served and we are very disappointed.”
She said the Speaker of the House could have ended the matter on Monday when Ratu Naiqama apologised to her.
"I urge the voters to bear with us until we find out what options are available to us”, she said.
“This matter has set a precedence and we will see whether this is open for other people or not in months to come.”
Twenty members voted for the motion, 18 voted against, and four abstained.
Suspension labelled a joke
Radio New Zealand International reported a spokesperson for Fiji’s Opposition said the two-year suspension handed to the MP was a joke, and court action is possible.
Mick Beddoes said the supension was extremely heavy-handed, especially considering first-time offences in other countries usually result in a suspension of only a few days.
He said the opposition boycotted Parliament on Friday, and would announce what further action it would take in the next few days.
Beddoes said he suspected sinister motives are behind the suspension, as Ratu Naiqama's absence means one less vote for the opposition.
"It's a suspension for two years, so therefore we're sitting in that House with a vacant seat for two years,” he said.
“He's not there for two years. We have one less member for two years, which again, it's pretty excessive”.
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