4 Jun 2016

Fiji's PM supports opposition MP's suspension

11:17 am on 4 June 2016

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has strongly supported Parliament's decision to suspend Opposition MP Tupou Draunidalo over her offensive comments against Education Minister Dr Mahendra Reddy.

Parliament voted to suspend Tupou Draunidalo of the National Federation Pary Friday afternoon by 28 votes to 16.

The Parliamentary Privileges Committee -- which is made up of four government MPs -- had recommended Ms Draunidalo be suspended.

The recommendation followed a cross-floor shouting match on Thursday, when Ms Draunidalo apparently called the education minister, Mahendra Reddy, a "fool".

Ms Draunidalo insists that Mr Reddy called the opposition "dumb natives," something which the privileges committee says didn't happen.

Mr Bainimarama said Ms Draunidalo made inaccurate and deeply irresponsible accusations against a fellow member and instead of engaging in rational debate, she sought to add an element of ethnic prejudice into the exchange and mischaracterise the Minister's statement.

"In Fiji, we unfortunately have a long and unsettling history confronting issues of ethnicity".

"That history includes the coups of 1987 and 2000 that were justified on ethnic grounds and that drove away many skilled and talented people, retarding our national development and scarring our nation for many years," said Mr Bainimrama.

"We have done our best to move away from that tarnished legacy and begin a new chapter in Fiji by giving every Fijian the benefits of common and equal citizenship and promoting a culture that rewards on the basis of merit and achievement."

"Yet still, there are some who cannot help but see our progress and development through the lens of ethnicity. Those individuals who cannot let go of the politics of division and who, at every turn, use divisive politics for their own cheap political gain," he said.

The opposition on Friday afternoon walked out of parliament in protest at Ms Draunidalo's suspension.

The parliamentary term ends in 2018.

The National Federation Party MP Tupou Draunidalo.

The National Federation Party MP Tupou Draunidalo. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round