24 May 2024

Fiji MPs salary bump justified as they're paid 'like a pretty junior military officer', Rabuka says

5:28 pm on 24 May 2024
Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka talks to journalists at New Zealand's Parliament.

Sitiveni Rabuka (file image) Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka has played down criticism in relation to a special parliamentary committee recommending significant hikes in the salaries, allowances and benefits of Members of Parliament.

This week, the Special Committee on Emoluments made up of MPs from both sides of the House released a report recommending huge salary increases for ordinary MPs, as well as raises for the prime minister and the president.

The move has received widespread criticism from Fijians, with a former leader of the opposition saying it is "outrageous that elected members of Parliament decide for themselves what they should be paid".

However, Rabuka told local radio broadcaster fijivillage.com that MPs dealt with "affairs of the state" and what they were currently paid was "like a junior military officer".

"The ministers pay is not very much affected, it's only the Members of Parliament. When you look at the Members of Parliament and their pay it's like a pretty junior military officer. We're dealing with the affairs of the state at this level," he said.

"A lot is expected of them. They travel to their constituencies; they're expected to have an office in their constituencies, close to where their major voting population is."

The National Federation Party (NFP)- one of the two minor parties in Rabuka's coalition - distanced itself from the special emoluments committee's recommendations.

In a Facebook post on Thursday - which included a screenshot of Fiji First Party submission and has now been taken down - the party said: "WOW!!!! The Parliaments' emoluments committee has adopted what Fiji First has submitted. It is clearly a copy and paste job. Is the Emoluments Committee impartial?"

The party told local media that "the Emoluments Committee should not make its own recommendations on the review of the salaries and allowances…and anything to the contrary will compromise the independence of this process."

The Fiji Labour Party has condemned the bipartisan committee's recommendation as "outrageous and a slap on the face of the poor".

Labour leader and a former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhary said the coalition government parties had promised to significantly reduce the excessively high salaries and allowances set by the previous FijiFirst government.

"They have obviously changed their minds and are going back on their promises just as they have done with other promises, such as reducing the cost of living and legislating a fair minimum wage", he said.

A former MP Niko Nawaikula also released a statement, saying the proposal was "unfair, unjust, unnecessary".

He said thirty percent of Fiji's population lives below the poverty line.

"They [Fijians] can't put food on the table. They are the ones that our MPs should concentrate on. Not themselves."

Nawaikula said he meets with the poor "all the time as I travel by bus".

"I just came back from Vanua Levu by boat on economy class. There was this single Mother struggling to keep her brood of 4 children on the bare floor of the ship (sic)."

"I doubt our MPs can see the poor and the ordinary from their tinted cars."