FijiFirst clarifies it’s still in govt until election of PM

Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum casting his vote
Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum casts his vote on December 14, 2022

FijiFirst General Secretary, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has spoken out for the first time after the result of the election was made public on Sunday – clarifying that Voreqe Bainimarama and his cabinet remain in government until a new Prime Minister is elected in Parliament.

Khaiyum said there is no other Prime Minister until an election in Parliament, when the President Summons Parliament to convene no later than 14 days after the return of the writ of election.

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mukesh Chand returned the writ to President HE Ratu Wiliame Katonivere on Monday this week. This means that the President is expected to convene Parliament on 02 January 2023.

Since no political party has received more than 50% of the total number of seats in Parliament, Section 93 (3) of the Constitution kicks in which requires that at the first sitting of Parliament, the Speaker will call for nominations from elected members and if one member is nominated and seconded, that person assumes the office of Prime Minister after he takes the oath of affirmation before the President, explained Khaiyum.

But if there is more than one person nominated and seconded, the Speaker must conduct a secret ballot and if after the first vote the person gets the support of more than 50% of the Members, then that person becomes Prime Minister after taking the oath of office.

Section 93 (3)(b) then adds that if after the first vote, no person is nominated, then a second vote is taken within 24 hours the person. The same repeat for the second and third vote – and if no one gets the 50% majority then, Section 93 (3)(d) dictates that the Speaker notifies the President in writing of the inability of Parliament to appoint a Prime Minister and the President shall within 24 hours’ dissolve Parliament and issues a writ of general election to take, in accordance with the Constitution.

He was clarifying the legal position of the appointment of the Prime Minister on the floor of Parliament – opposing the letter written by the joint coalition of Peoples Alliance (PA), National Federation Party (NFP) and Social Democratic Party (SODELPA) requesting the President to convene Parliament at the earliest convenient time, ‘with Sitiveni Rabuka as Prime Minister.’

Khaiyum also confirmed that FijiFirst confirmed receiving letter from Lenaitasi Duru of SODELPA confirming that agreement reached between the coalition partner was null and void.

He said FijiFirst awaits the SODELPA Party process to reconvene the Management Board.

“We will await that, happy to re-negotiate with SODELPA,” said Khaiyum.

Vote is ‘unconsitutional’, says Duru

Internal bickering reared its ugly head again as SODELPA, the party with the balance of power, in the coalition with the People’s Alliance and National Federation Party, is now claiming the vote by its Management Board Tuesday was unconstitutional.

Lenaitasi Duru, who resigned immediately after the Board Meeting and claims he’s still party General Secretary told journalists that he remains the party executive.

Duru claims that two members who voted were not supposed to be part of the meeting because they were non-elected members.

“I’m the General Secretary, and I’m the authorised officer of the party, I take control of the regulations and compliance issues. I saw something that was not in order and it was upon me to act.

“There was a point of contention in one or two of the people attending and I advised the board that it was not in compliance and contradicts our constitution. The board decided to allow them in and therefore opened up a can of worms,” he told journalists in Suva.

Duri also confirmed that he also sought legal advice from private lawyers including Supervisor of Election Mohammed Saneem about the meeting.

He said the board needs to reconvene to address the anomaly.

“We are going to reconvene. And this time, we’re going to make sure that we have tight security. The point is only those that are in compliance with get into vote. There are certain regulations, that guide who sits on the board so were are going to make sure that they meet those criteria,” said Duru.

Duru claims the coalition reached on Tuesday night was null and void.

He said 22 was the quorum and 30 were in attendance with four non-compliant members.

Duru said that he raised these concerns during the meeting but his concerns were disregarded.

“I was disappointed the way the management board didn’t listen to my advice as the General Secretary and authorised officer of the party.

But lead negotiator for SODELPA, Anare Jale disputed Duru’s version of what transpired stating the meeting was done legally and the country is moving forward.

“The decision yesterday is final. It was properly conducted. So if somebody’s saying that it wasn’t done, properly, illegally. That person has to prove it. 

“Those people in the meeting were confirmed representatives, verified by himself.  Everything was legal. He was the one that verified the quorum was legal and those that attended.

“He just said that the Management Board has all the authority to make a decision whether they should sit in the meeting or not,” said Jale.

Respect Fiji election process: Bainimarama to NZ

Meanwhile, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has blasted New Zealand Foreign Minister saying she should respect the election process of the Pacific nation.

Bainimarama was replying to New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanai Mahuta’s tweet, endorsing the new Fijian coalition government.

“You got the wrong country.

“You’ve jumped the gun please respect our laws and pull down your tweet,” Bainimarama said in his response on Facebook.

In a tweet, Nanai Mahuta offered her congratulations to People’s Alliance -National Federation Party (NFP)-Sodelpa on forming a coalition to lead the island nation

Mahuta said she looks forward to working with the new government to continue strengthening the warm relationship.

“Congratulations to PA-NFP-SODELPA/ Sitiveni Rabuka on forming a coalition to lead the Fijian people. New Zealand looks forward to working together to continue strengthening our warm relationship #duavata #mahitahi #kotahitanga,” she said on twitter.

New Zealand says it stands ready to help Fiji facilitate any democratic process, but only if the need arises.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is keeping tabs on what is happening in Fiji.

Her comments to Radio Tarana, follows the coalition of the People’s Alliance, the National Federation Party, and SODELPA which was formalised last night. “Here I think let’s allow the process to run its course, but we stand ready to support Fiji through its process should we need to be at any stage be called upon, the same way as we acted observers through this electoral process. But I have faith in Fiji’s ability to conduct the remaining stages of this process and stand ready to acknowledge their new leader,” she said.

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