24 Dec 2018

Tributes flow after speaker of Fiji parliament dies

10:40 am on 24 December 2018
Fiji's Speaker of Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni

Dr Jiko Luveni died on Saturday morning following a short illness. She was 72. Photo: Fiji Department of Information

Tributes have been paid from across the Pacific after the death this weekend of the speaker of Fiji's parliament, Jiko Luveni.

Dr Luveni died on Saturday morning, the Office of the Secretary General of Fiji's parliament confirmed in a brief statement. She died at the age of 72 after a short illness.

The office said arrangements were being made for a funeral in consulation with her family.

Tributes have flowed across the weekend following the announcement. Australia's foreign minister, Marise Payne, said in a statement that Dr Luveni had forged a strong path for women across the Pacific.

"Dr Luveni will be sorely missed by her colleagues and parliamentary peers across the Pacific," Ms Payne said.

The New Zealand parliament also posted a condolence letter on Facebook, and the High Commissioners of Australia, New Zealand and France all issued statements describing her as a firm friend. On Saturday night, the Fiji footballer Roy Krishna wore a black armband as his Wellington Phoenix team played the Brisbane Roar.

In a statement, the leader of the opposition Sodelpa party, Sitiveni Rabuka said: "Although there were disagreements with her decisions as speaker, there was always a degree of goodness, respect and warmth whenever we passed each other along the corridor of parliament."

Born on the eastern island of Ono-i-Lau in 1946, Jiko Fatafehi Luveni went to school in Lautoka annd Suva. She studied at the University of Sydney before going on to become the first Fijian woman to graduate from the Fiji School of Dentistry in 1967.

She worked as a dentist and held several other roles in public health, before entering politics in 2008, two years after the Frank-Bainimarama-led coup.

In the Bainimarama interim regime, Dr Luveni served as the health minister, as well as the minister of social welfare, women and poverty alleviation. In 2014, she became the first female Speaker of Parliament after the first elections since the 2006 coup.

She had only just been elected to a second term as speaker when her death was announced on Saturday.