Expectation is high. There is even a touch of anticipation. Of what? Who knows. But there is no doubt about the fact that the first sitting of Parliament next week is actually attracting a lot of interest.
Parliament is scheduled to sit for the first time in eight years on Monday, October 6, at the Government Buildings in Suva.
The program includes the swearing in of members of parliament; election of the Speaker; election of the Deputy Speaker; Election of the Opposition Leader; adoption of the Standing Orders; and adjournment of Parliament to the next sitting date.
Now that we are well and truly off the campaign trail, the business of getting things into perspective is set to begin. Section 67 (1) of the 2014 Constitution states: After a general election of members of parliament, the Parliament shall be summoned to meet by the President no later than 14 days after the announcement of the results of the general election.
The section outlines the following events: (2) At the first meeting, the agenda of business shall include- (a) swearing-in of members, presided over by the Secretary-General to Parliament;
(b) the election of the Speaker in accordance with section 77, presided over by the Secretary-General to Parliament;
(c) swearing-in of the Speaker, presided over by the Secretary-General to Parliament;
(d) the election and swearing-in of the Deputy Speaker, presided over by the Speaker; and
(f) the election of the Leader of the Opposition, presided over by the Speaker, and conducted in accordance with section 78.
Section 67 (3) states: Other sessions of Parliament commence on a date appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister but no longer than 6 months must elapse between the end of one session and the start of another. Given the attention focused on preparing our members of parliament, it is getting difficult to shrug off the sense of excitement in the air.
It has certainly been a long time coming. What we have before us now is another firm step that continues our progression into an era that is embracing democracy.
The baby steps we took last year leading up to September 17 have slowly turned into big steps. We've ticked off all the little boxes and now we head into our first sitting.
The commitment shown by the Prime Minister Rear Admiral (Ret) Voreqe Bainimarama at the UN in New York last weekend, to embrace a democratic system of governance is encouraging. All eyes are now focused on Monday. If for nothing else, it is to see our first parliamentary sitting in eight years. And that's special.
So it was refreshing to hear our new Secretary General to Parliament Viniana Namosimalua state that her team is ready for the first sitting.
As the UNDP resident representative Osnat Lubrani said yesterday: "We very much hope that the parliament will be the place and the space for very robust, but respectful, debate and discussion, a parliament where differing opinions can be voiced but also where consensus can be found." This, no doubt, is a very exciting time for Fiji.