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“Playing games with parliamentary seating arrangements”. Letter to Editor (sent 21 Nov. 2014)

21/11/2014

“Playing games with parliamentary seating arrangements”

Letter to Editor (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Ashwin Raj) (sent 20 November 2014)

Dear Sir,

My understanding is that once parliamentary seating has been allocated to the “government benches” and “Opposition benches”, that allocation remains for the life of the parliament.

Should either side or any individual Member of Parliament wish to make a political point by boycotting a session, than their allocated seats remain symbolically empty, as an explicit symbol of the protest. This is a legitimate tactic used by parliamentary oppositions especially when they disagree fundamentally with the majority government side.

That protest can be over some legitimate cause, or simply an irrational act of defiance.

But the elected members of parliament are fully entitled to make that show of defiance, whatever its merits.

I was astonished therefore to see that for Indian Prime Minister Modi’s speech to Parliament, some government members crossed over to the Opposition side, not because they now agreed to be part of the Opposition but because they wished to visually nullify the symbolic protest that SODELPA was making.

People can agree to disagree whether that protest was politically wise or not.

I would be grateful if the Secretary to Parliament would clarify who made the decision to allow the seating arrangements to change for Modi’s speech to the Fiji Parliament, specifically to allow government members to sit on the Opposition benches, and whether this is allowed under normal parliamentary rules.

Or, was a mistake made, and should not be repeated.

People are entitled to believe or not believe the Heads of Governments of Super-powers who tell us that they are visiting us because they really deeply care for the people of small countries like Fiji, but are here today and gone tomorrow.

Fiji’s parliament goes on, until the next coup.

 

Professor Wadan Narsey
Suva

 

 

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