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MPS blocked from parliament

Wednesday 10 February 2016 | Published in Regional

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suva – Members of a Fijian Opposition party have been blocked from taking their seats on the first day of parliament for allegedly using the wrong type of accountant. The National Federation Party had its registration suspended because the accountant it used to audit its annual accounts wasn’t certified by the Fiji Institute of Accountants. The Speaker of Fiji’s Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni, said the suspension meant the party’s three MPs were not allowed to take their seats, and the parliament voted to support that suspension. Dr Luveni took the decision to block the MPs from the house on advice from the solicitor general after election authorities suspended the party over its audit. National Federation Party lawyer Richard Naidu said he was surprised the parliament voted on the decision. “I didn’t see that coming, and I’m not quite sure what the point of that is,” he said. “But that would tend to support the whole notion that it’s the Fiji First Party majority that decides everything in Fiji, rather than the law.” Fiji First, led by former coup-leader turned Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, won 32 seats of the 50 seat parliament in 2014 elections. Bill Gavoka, an MP with the Opposition Sodelpa party, said members of his party attended the first session with black armbands, protesting “the death of democracy” under Fiji First. “It’s the tyranny of the majority, they have the numbers and they just ride roughshod over everything else in this country,” he said. “It’s treating a grand old party in a very callous way and it’s not the way Fiji needs to run its business. “After eight or nine years of dictatorship, it’s a time for healing. But not with this government, they go for the jugular,” Gavoka said. Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice said she would raise the suspension with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Senator Rice said Fiji appeared to be moving from a military dictatorship to a parliamentary dictatorship. “I think it needs to concern Australia,” she said. “Fiji and Australia are very close and they are a big recipient of our foreign aid, so Australia needs to be concerned about what is going on. And in fact the rest of the Pacific needs to be concerned as well.” Sodelpa has called on the speaker to get an independent legal opinion. Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said the parliament had again been hijacked. “And you’ll see I’m wearing a black ribbon today, because democracy if it’s not already dead, it is dying.” - ABC/RNZI