SODELPA MPs write letter to Indian PM
By ANA VURU
Fijian Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa has denied there were racial overtones behind a decision by 15 MPs from her Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) to boycott a speech delivered by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a special Parliament sitting yesterday.
Ro Teimumu made the comment during an interview on Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat programme.
She told the ABC’s Pacific correspondent Liam Fox that there were reasons for the boycott and that her party’s alliance with the National Federation Party, led by Dr Biman Prasad, showed her party was racially inclusive.
“I think it would be rather foolish for anyone to say that we are coming from a racist background,” she said.
Ro Teimumu said she stayed away after the Government reneged on an invitation for her to give a vote of thanks to Mr Modi and because opposition MPs were not allowed to meet the Indian prime minister.
“(The Government) don’t have any regard for the Opposition,” she said.
“Why would you bring [Mr Modi] to parliament? He knows full well there are two sides and at least they can give us that opportunity.”
Mr Modi’s visit was the second by an Indian prime minister to Fiji.
Ro Teimumu said that when Indira Gandhi visited Fiji in 1981, the opposition was granted the opportunity to address her, but not this time.
In his address to parliament, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama apologised to Mr Modi on behalf of the country for the absence of the opposition MPs.
“I apologise to you, Prime Minister Modi, on behalf of the people of Fiji for this inexcusable behaviour which does not have anything to do with the relations between our two countries,” he said.
“It only shows that some of us have lessons to learn about democracy and nationhood.”
Mr Bainimarama said SODELPA failed in its obligation to work for the common good in a democratic parliament.
LETTER TO MODI
SODELPA Opposition MPs have written a letter to Prime Minister explaining the reasons for their boycott of his historic address in the Fijian Parliament.
This was confirmed by Party whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca to local media, who said the letter was delivered through the Indian High Commissioner in Fiji, A.Gitesh Sarma.
Ratu Isoa told Fiji One TV News that the letter explained he reasons for the boycott.
“I think democracy is honesty. We really need to be very much part of an institution and inclusiveness. We supposed to be part of consultative process that will bring our country to the level that is expected of us by the people who elected us,” he said.
Ratu Isoa said the protest was not aimed at Prime Minister Modi.
He brushed aside the Government’s claim that SODELPA MPs were putting their political agenda first before national interest.
“What national agenda they are talking about if its brought into parliament, Parliament is a political institution. If they want to address national issues, then that should be addressed at a national level. I don’t know where that question is coming from,” Ratu Isoa said.