Opposition Leader comments on suspension of NFP MP, Roko Tupou Draunidalo

Kepa: Suspension to bolster Opposition
By Nasik Swami
The Fiji Times. Saturday, June 04, 2016

OPPOSITION Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa says the suspension of Roko Tupou Draunidalo will not weaken the Opposition but strengthen it further in their fight to achieve genuine democracy in Fiji.

Ro Teimumu said the Opposition had now lost two of its members in Parliament because of some disappointing decisions made by the Parliamentary Privileges Committee.

She said the Opposition would continue to do everything within the law.

“We don’t go outside of the law to carry out a coup or to take up a¬†leadership position anywhere. What we have done has been consistent and we will abide by what the laws say we can do,” Ro Teimumu said.

She said the suspension handed to Roko Tupou was “very harsh, inhumane and of great injustice”.

“We have heard things said about us (Opposition) and we just let it pass and in this particular case, it is unfortunate that it has come up with the committee and we have seen what has happened and that means two of our members are not in Parliament.”

National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the
suspension was a sad day for democracy in Fiji.

“It’s a great setback for any progress we might have expected towards genuine democracy in Fiji,” Prof Prasad said.

He said suspending a MP was not a way to practise genuine democracy and respect for people’s choice in Parliament.

“What this action basically does as it did in the case of Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu (SODELPA MP) is that it denies the people the legitimate representation in Parliament.

“The matter, of course, will be considered by the party at its working committee and we will be, as a party, exploring the possibility of taking this matter to court to challenge the constitutionality of the decision and procedures that might have been followed to arrive to this decision.”

He said Roko Tupou had provided strong leadership to the party since she took up the position in 2014.

“I want to say to all the supporters that Roko Tupou’s suspension creates a vacuum in the party in Parliament and that is highly regrettable but I can assure the supporters that the NFP will come out strong, out of all these events and cause of action that the FijiFirst Government has initiated and taken or forced in Parliament.”

He said the party would continue its historical and principle stand to fight for genuine democracy, freedom and human rights in this country until it was achieved fully.

Senior academic Dr Neelesh Gounder, who teaches economics of
governance at the University of the South Pacific, said although
disciplinary matters were a component of democracy, suspension of more than two years seemed over the top.

“Such a harsh punishment is not in the spirit and principles of democracy. The Government has numbers in Parliament but it is the duty of the Parliamentary Privileges Committee to take account of disciplinary options within the context of consensus building rather than confrontation,” Dr Gounder said.