Editorial comment – Getting back into the grind

Opposition member Niko Nawaikula during the parliament break yesterday. Picture: RAMA

Expectation is high this week. You can almost feel the anticipation. Of what? Who knows?

The first sitting of Parliament for this year got underway yesterday.

We continue to take those little steps in our progression into an era that should be about embracing democracy.

In 2015, the UNDP resident representative Osnat Lubrani said, “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 is important for democracy.

It is important for our nation.

Our leaders have a platform to discuss and debate on issues that are important to us.

Reporting on parliamentary proceedings is important in the mechanics of the development of our nation.

From the outset, the relationship between the media and politicians is an interesting one.

It does become awkward sometimes, drawing on various emotional responses from different politicians.

There is a sort of love-hate relationship.

In the face of that though sits the role of the media as the fourth estate.

The dissemination of information from Parliament is important for us all.

It offers us a glimpse of proceedings, issues of discussion and debate, and processes that are important for our nation.

There were many interesting topics in yesterday’s opening day.

For instance, the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum felt the real reason the Opposition wanted a special committee to review maritime and outer islands development programs was “because they want to collect more allowances”.

He was responding to a motion put forward by Opposition member of Parliament Jese Saukuru.

Mr Saukuru suggested that Government should take a holistic approach in looking at the needs of the maritime zone and outer islands when he put forward the motion.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum told Parliament that wages for civil servants and the disciplined forces amounted to $4 million per day.

He made the comments while speaking on a debate on the 2014, 2015, 2016 review of the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations report.

Civil servants, he insisted, have had enormous pay increases under the FijiFirst Government. National Federation Party leader Prof Biman Prasad claimed Government ministers had told members of the Opposition that “Government is running out of money”.

He was speaking during a debate on the review of the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations 2014, 2015 and 2016 annual reports.

Opposition member of Parliament Niko Nawaikula yesterday questioned the use of $360,000 from the Occupational and Health Safety trust funds for the payment of salaries in 2015.

Opposition parliamentarian Mitieli Bulanauca felt the delay and inconsistency in submitting annual reports showed poor management by ministerial heads and even the responsible minister.

Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya questioned whether every government ministry had a sexual harassment policy.

She said under the Employment Relations Act, an employer must develop and maintain a policy to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

The onus of removing derelict ships was on shipowners themselves, said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

Freedom of workers as enshrined under the eight International Labour Organization’s conventions that Fiji is a signatory of, according to former employment minister Jone Usamate, have been internalised in the country’s laws.

Prof Prasad yesterday accused Government of “wrecking the trade union movement, the workers and the trade union harmony” in the country.

It is good to note the business of getting things into perspective is back on track.

We look forward to the remainder of this week’s session.

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