Konrote’s term nears end

President of Fiji, Jioji Konrote. Picture: File

THE Parliament secretariat has given a less than 48-hour notice to parliamentarians for an urgent sitting tomorrow to appoint the President of Fiji.

In a flying minute issued yesterday, Acting Secretary General to Parliament Viniana Namosimalua told MPs that the Parliament would convene a special sitting at 9.30am on August 31, 2018 to appoint the President.

Mrs Namosimalua stated that in accordance with Section 84 (2) of the Constitution, “whenever a vacancy arises in the Office of the President, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition shall nominate one name each to the Speaker who shall put both names to the floor of Parliament for voting”.

Yesterday, Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa said she was not aware of the special sitting until about midday.

Ro Teimumu said the flying minute came as a short notice and she would put it before the caucus on whether to nominate a new President or support the extension of the term of the current President.

National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said the party could not guarantee its participation in tomorrow’s special sitting because the powers of the parliamentary Business Committee had been usurped.

Prof Prasad said the Business Committee and Members of Parliament received less than 48 hours’ notice yesterday via a flying minute from the Acting Secretary-General to Parliament.

“The flying minute basically asked the members of the business committee to note the contents of the minute instead of deliberating on the issue.

“We have replied to the Secretary-General informing her office that because of the extremely short notice and the usurpation of powers of the business committee, we cannot guarantee our participation in tomorrow’s special sitting”.

He said under the Standing Orders, it was the Business Committee that determined the business of Parliament, irrespective of whether it was a special sitting or not.

Prof Prasad said the term of the current President, Jioji Konrote expired on November 12, and while he was appointed on October 12, 2015, he did not assume office until a month later – on November 12, 2015.

“Given the above, the Business Committee should have been given an opportunity to deliberate such an important issue so as to arrive at a consensus.

“We also ask why the rush to make an appointment tomorrow when the term of the current President expires on 12th November. The term of the current Parliament ends on 6th October.

“We are not being disrespectful to the Office of the President. The Office of the President symbolises unity and the manner Government is asking Parliament to rubber-stamp its decision breaches goodwill and unity.”

Speaker Dr Jiko Luveni confirmed the urgent sitting tomorrow would be to formalise the term of the President, either by extending it or through a new appointment.

According to Section 85 (1) of the Constitution, the President holds office for three years, and is eligible for re-appointment for one further term of three years, but is not eligible for re-appointment after that.