MPs can say anything

SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka at Nadi International Airport yesterday. Picture: REINAL CHAND

MEMBERS of Parliament can say anything when they are in Parliament and no one can do anything against them. That’s the clarification from Speaker of Parliament Dr Jiko Luveni after Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s attack on Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader Sitiveni Rabuka in Parliament yesterday, describing his 1987 coup as one that caused a “hell on Earth and chaos”.

In his ministerial statement on the 139th anniversary of the arrival of the fi rst ship carrying girmitiya to Fiji, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said Mr Rabuka’s actions were an intentional attack on preserving the position of the elite and had ripped apart the social political fabric of Fiji.

Mr Rabuka is not a member of Parliament. Dr Luveni said MPs had the freedom of speech even though people were not in Parliament to defend themselves, and if the Opposition had issues with the ministerial statement, they could have opposed it.

She said MPs could say anything in Parliament. “Members of the Parliament have privileges. Members of the Parliament can say anything and no one can do anything against them when they are in Parliament.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum claimed that Mr Rabuka did not believe in common and equal citizenry “This leader (SODELPA leader) does not believe in common and equal citizenry. He (Rabuka) takes issue with all of us being treated at level playing fi eld and all of us being called Fijians,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“What the Fijian people want is to be free of the shackles he placed on our nation when he tried to turn Fijians against Fijians.

The Acting Prime Minister claimed that because of the 1987 coup, innocent people were taken as hostages, beaten and threatened and that coup was not some momentary impassionate action.

“His actions drove tens of thousands of people away from our shores and under his leadership that day brought about nearly two decades of institutionalised racial supremacy and indeed ingrained provincialism through the 1990 and the 1997 constitutions,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“Many of our people were treated as second- class citizens, it was not only bad for inter-ethnic injustice or relationship but within the ethnic group themselves.

“There is footage of Indo-Fijians crawling under cars to avoid being attacked as violence across the country spread. Racial violence, attacks, some organised, some random, some  opportunistic,” he said.

Mr Rabuka said the comments made by the A-G were foolish ravings.

“He (A-G) is ranting,” he said, speaking to this newspaper after stepping off a flight from Auckland, New Zealand, yesterday afternoon. They talk about the media not being free in 1987 and yes, it wasn’t for a few days.”

“And then we had to return (freedom) to them because we used the media like a thermometer. It was a good measure of how well and not so well we were doing at the time.”
Mr Rabuka said comments made by Mr Sayed-Khaiyum about his “regret” not being enough to “fix our nation, were ironic”.

“Have they not regretted what they did in 2006? I was asked by the New Zealand media today (yesterday) about what I thought about Prime Minister Bainimarama. They asked me ‘do you
know him?’ and I said ‘yes, I know him. He served under me and I find it very easy to forgive him because he is always my junior.”

In his response to the ministerial statement, Opposition MP and National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the A-G had claimed time and again why NFP was silent on certain issues.

“He has been demonising us and he has been demonising SODELPA,” Prof Prasad said.

“There is a reason for this Madam Speaker. They (FijiFirst) are going for the Indo- Fijian votes but let me tell him they are not going to get it this time.”

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