By ANA VURU
The Opposition in the Fijian Parliament boycotted today’s sitting in protest at the Government’s 2015 Budget, which they said was riddled with errors, but that did not stop the Budget being passed.
The Opposition raised concerns about the 2015 Appropriations Bill last week and whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca says the Government made amendments which it is calling its Core Agenda and wants this attached to the Budget as a supplement.
Ratu Isoa says the entire document needs to be rewritten.
He says they approached the Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni, before Parliament, but this was ruled out.
Ratu Isoa says they then attended the chamber and attempted to raise points of order on their concerns.
“When they insisted, the Speaker insisted that this [Budget debate] should continue we stood and walked out of Parliament because it is unconstitutional and it is an illegal document, and we cannot be part of that,” he said.
The 2015 Budget and the Appropriation Bill was then passed without the presence of Opposition Members who walked out prior to the consideration of the Budget Estimates.
Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa in a press conference said they tried their best to work with Government and when they raised their point of orders, they weren’t heard.
“We can’t go on with what’s not legal and not right,” Ro Teimumu said.
National Federation Party Leader and Member of Opposition Dr Biman Prasad said they had no option but to make the point in the manner they did because government did not take the opportunity they had, to correct what the opposition had identified in the tabling of the estimates.
Meanwhile, in a statement this evening, Attorney-General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said, “the decision of the Opposition to withdraw from the Parliament today because a ruling by the Speaker went against them prior to the consideration of the Budget Estimates is deeply disappointing”.
“Their job as the Opposition is to ensure that the Budget is debated properly, effectively and meets relevant appropriate standards. Indeed, Government was looking forward to that debate so that the final Budget outcome is the best that it can be in the national interest. Instead, the Opposition chose to place its narrow political interests before those of the Fijian people.
“By withdrawing from the Parliament, the Opposition demonstrated a complete disregard for democracy because in order for democracy to function properly, constructive dialogue and debate is vital. This was a short-sighted decision which again demonstrates the difficulty that the Opposition is having coming to terms with the choice the Fijian people made at the September election.
“The Appropriation Bill has now been passed and so the 2015 Budget has been officially approved. For the rest of the week, we will be working on the consequential laws that will complement the budget and enable the Government to begin implementing its service delivery to the Fijian people in the coming year.
“Once that has been completed, individual programmes can proceed and, among other things, tenders will be called. We have a lot to deliver and we are focused on turning promises into deeds with the greatest efficiency so ordinary Fijians will benefit from this forward-looking Budget.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING: DINFO NEWS