15 Nov 2016

Fiji speaker told suspensions have no legal basis

5:41 pm on 15 November 2016

The Inter Parliamentary Union has advised the speaker of Fiji's Parliament that the suspension of two opposition MPs for the remainder of the term has no legal basis.

The Sodelpa MP Ratu Isoa Tikoca was suspended in September over statements found to have targeted Muslims, while the National Federation Party's Tupou Draunidalo was suspended in June for calling a government minister a fool.

The Geneva-based Inter Parliamentary Union which met earlier this month said Fiji's constitution, read together with Parliamentary Standing Orders, does not provide sufficient legal certainty and clarity as a basis for the suspensions.

The Union said while Ratu Isoa's comments touched on sensitive societal matters and Ms Draunidalo could have responded differently to the situation, their words fell within their right to freedom of expression.

It said the suspensions were wholly disproportionate and should be lifted, as they deprived the MPs of their right to exercise their parliamentary mandate, as well as their electorates of representation.

The Union said it was also concerned about what appeared to be a recent trend in Fiji to impose long-term suspensions on vocal opposition MPs and the serious consequences this had for the opposition's ability to carry out its work effectively.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs