Bainimarama’s attack a ‘prima facie’ breach

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Leader of Opposition, Voreqe Bainimarama during the Parliament sitting at the Parliament complex in Suva on Monday, 13 February, 2023. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Opposition Leader Voreqe Bainimarama’s virulent attack on President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere on Monday was out of order and a prima facie breach of privilege, the Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, said yesterday.

Ratu Naiqama directed the Parliament’s Privilege Committee to meet and deliberate on a notification of breach of privilege from Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration Pio Tikoduadua, giving it until tomorrow (Friday) to finalise and table a report on whether there was a breach of privilege.

Ratu Naiqama said Parliament would then consider the report of the Privileges Committee. Mr Tikoduadua told Parliament that the former PM had uttered words that were “denigrating and humiliating to the Head of State, His Excellency the President, also as Commander-in-Chief.”

Mr Tikoduadua also said Mr Bainimarama’s appeal to the rank and file in the RFMF “were highly seditious and disrespectful while dishonouring the dignity and bringing Parliament into disrepute, which are contravention of Standing Order 62 clauses (3) and (4)”.

Ratu Naiqama said he had made his decision after reviewing the uncorrected Hansard report for Monday, February 13.

He said freedom of speech and debate in Parliament were subject to Standing Orders.

“Therefore, any member can say whatever they want in this House, but what you say in Parliament is subject to the Standing Orders,” Ratu Naiqama said.

“The dignity and respect of this House must at all times be upheld.

“The words used by the honourable Leader of the Opposition are matters which are out of order in this Parliament and constitute a prima facie breach of privilege.”

Standing Order 62 (3) states – “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.”

Standing Order 62(4) states – “It is out of order for a Member, when speaking, to use – (a) offensive words against Parliament or another Member; (b) treasonable words; (c) seditious words; or (d) words that are likely to promote or provoke feelings of ill-will or hostility between communities or ethnic groups within Fiji.”

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