Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says he is unscathed and is not offended by the statement of Opposition Member of Parliament Ketan Lal who attacked him last night during the 2023-24 National Budget debate.
This morning, Parliament had to be suspended under Standing Orders 6, to allow for Members to discuss and debate on the proper decorum of MPs in the august house.
Leader of Government in Parliament, Lynda Tabuya raised a Point of Order under Section 64(4)(A) against Lal for imputing improper motive against the Prime Minister.
Tabuya said Lal had stated offensive words against the Prime Minister by referring to his age and that he was not fit to lead and telling him to go out.
“This is discriminative to speak on his age alone and to pick on the Prime Minister about his age.”
Tabuya said it was out of order for the member under Section 64(d) to use words that are likely to promote words that invoke feelings of ill-will and hostility between communities groups in Fiji.
“Ketan Lal referred to the 1987 Coup for no other reason other than to raise the issue or attack different races in Fiji.”
Tabuya said no Member from the Government side attacked the former Prime Minister and Leader of the FijiFirst Party.
“It is the aim of the Coalition Government to bring national reconciliation and unity in Parliament,” Tabuya added.
Speaker of Parliament Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu said that it was partially the fault of the Secretariat for not conducting an Introductory Workshop for new Members of Parliament.
Ratu Naiqama said this was a stick issue and does not blame the Opposition Member for his outburst yesterday.
The Speaker also questioned why this Point of Order was not raised yesterday when the incident happened.
“We are not far off just a couple of hours and that the incident happened at about 9:15pm, last evening.”
“I also had sounded a cautious remark in this August House asking Members of Parliament to please respect, maintain and properly protect the decorum of Parliament on how we speak,” Ratu Naiqama said.
The Speaker allowed 30 minutes for MPs to debate on the conduct of the Opposition Member.
Rabuka said he sat and listened to Lal and could not interject, nor did he want to agree.
Rabuka said the only thing that he was concerned with was his reference to him to matters that I has already apologised for to the nation.
“The fact that the Honourable MP is perhaps an indication of the need for me to apologise again, forgive and to move forward.”
“Perhaps in the spur of the moment, the heat of the debate it comes out. I am not offended by it, and I am used to it – Almost 15 years of abuse, it is like water on the back of the truck,” Rabuka added.
The Prime Minister called on the Parliament Secretariat to conduct an induction workshop to address some of these issues.
Lal following the debate, apologised to the Prime Minister and MPs on his outbursts in Parliament and also promised that he will not repeat this action.
Leader of Opposition Inia Seruiratu told Parliament that he will hold another session with Lal on this matter.
Seruiratu said he had also spoken to Lal this morning.
The matter will not be forwarded to the Privileges Committee after the withdrawal of the statement and the apology by Lal.