Media Release: Parliament No Longer Independent

14 January 2015
The Parliament of Fiji, which is the highest Court of the Land, is no longer independent after its Secretary-General was directed by the Attorney General and Minister For Finance on how to allocate funding with respect to staff and resources of political party offices.

On 30th December 2014, with only a 10 minutes notification, the Office of the Secretary General informed our parliamentary office that the S-G Mrs Viniana Namosimalua and the Deputy S-G wanted to meet the Party Leader or any other NFP MP.

During their meeting with me and my office Senior Administration Officer, Mrs Namosimalua stated she had just received a letter from the Attorney General directing her on how to allocate resources to Parliamentary party offices, namely to allocate funding on the basis of $10,000 per MP.

Based on that formula, she said the NFP with 3 MPs would receive $30,000 annually and the money would be deposited directly to the Party’s account ad used to recruit staff, who would not be paid by the Legislature from 1st January.

I told her this was unconstitutional and to put the proposal in writing and to also furnish us a copy of the Attorney General’s letter.

On 30th December the S-G wrote to us outlining the funding proposal of $10,000 per MP and also stated that our staff would be made redundant. But she failed to state that she had been directed to do so by the A-G.

We responded to her letter on 6th January rejecting the proposal. We also requested that she release the Attorney General’s letter. We pointed out that her office was independent and above any influence from anyone under Section 79(7) (8) of the Constitution. And Section 79(10) of the Constitution empowered her to effectively and independently exercise her powers.

Under the proposal outlined in her letter of 30th December the allocation was as follows: –
Fiji First (32 MPs): $320,000
SODELA (15MPs): $150,000
NFP (3MPs): $30,000

On 8th January Mrs Namosimalua wrote back to us increasing the amount to $15,000 per MP thereby allocating us $45,000. Fiji First allocation increased by $160,000 to $480,000 and SODELA’s allocation was $225,000.

We replied to her letter on 9th January rejecting the allocation and reminded her that when allocating staff to our office, she said the appointments would be for a period of 3 months and then the positions would be advertised.

We also told her that the allocation of resources should not be solely based on size of parties but a minimum threshold – that is on fundamental principles and parliamentary duties.

While Mrs Namosimalua is yet to respond to our letter, she went ahead and revoked the appointments of our staff.

We find the S-G’s proposal illogical, unconstitutional. If the Secretary –General allows herself to be directed by the Attorney-General, then it is direct interference in the work of Parliament and renders meaningless her powers under Section 79 of the Constitution.

It is obvious that the Attorney General is hell-bent to render us as an ineffective parliamentary party.

We once gain call upon the Secretary-General to release the letter from the Attorney General in the name of transparency. This goes against every fibre of democratic norms.

When we say the S-G’s action is unconstitutional, we base it on Section 79 where it is her role to appoint, terminate or discipline staff. She cannot delegate this role to anyone else, in this case to political parties. She is directly responsible for administering funding and is answerable only to the Speaker, not to any Minister or anyone else.

This matter is unprecedented. We have been the longest parliamentary party in Fiji’s history since Independence 44 years ago, except in 1999, 2006 and for 4 years after the 2001 elections.

We understand and know fully well the basis on which political party offices in parliament are resourced, especially Opposition parties. Since the start of Parliament last October, we have been at the benevolence of SODELPA who have kindly allowed the three MPs and our staff to use the Opposition Leader’s Office facilities. As a parliamentary party, we are entitled to a separate fully equipped office. We were assured by the Secretary-General that we would be provided one but that has failed to materialize.

This has now become a matter for our Party and we will have a Party’s Working Committee meeting at the end of this month to inform our delegates of the attempt to stifle our role and for the Party to take a decision on this matter of critical importance.

Biman Prasad
Leader

Encl:
1. 30th December letter by S-G
2. NFP’s Reply to S-G’s 30th December letter
3. S-G’s letter of 8th January 2015
4. NFP’s Reply to S-G’s 8th January letter
5. Revocation of appointments by S-G