Bulitavu retains Parliamentary seat
September 10, 2021 5:00 pm
SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu will retain his seat in Parliament after a court action calling for the immediate vacation of his seat was thrown out by the Court of Disputed Returns today.
Bulitavu was taken to Court by SODELPA Leader Viliame Gavoka for alleged breach of party directives when he spoke in support of the 2021-2022 National Budget and Bill 17 in Parliament.
Chief Justice Kamal Kumar ruled that the Plaintiff (Gavoka) has failed to provide sufficient evidence that the Defendant (Bulitavu) voted in support of the Budget or Bill No.17 or abstained from voting.
The Court also said Gavoka in putting forward the internal memo without stating when it was issued to be misleading and unhelpful.
Speaking to the media after the ruling, Bulitavu says it’s back to business for him.
“Next for me probably I will still continue given I still have my seat in Parliament and I continue my work as a Member of Parliament and also towards the 2022 General Elections.”
His lawyer Sushil Sharma says this is the first time in the history of Labasa courts to have a Court of Disputed Returns hearing and he is honoured to have represented Bulitavu.
“I am very happy and excited about it. I think this is one of the benchmark rulings Fiji will have. And, I am very proud that I am the only legal practitioner from Labasa engaged under this kind of proceedings under Section 63, 64, 65, and 66 of the Constitution on the Court of Disputed Returns.”
The Court noted that no minutes of the SODELPA Management Board Meeting was led in evidence to show that they passed a resolution for its Parliamentary Members to vote against the Budget and Bill No. 17.
Justice Kumar also ruled that no evidence had been led to establish that the Party Leader/Parliamentary Leader communicated in writing any directive by the Management Board to its Members of Parliament to vote against the Budget and Bill No.17 or not to abstain from voting.
The Chief Justice also ruled that there was no email produced in evidence to prove that an Internal Memo was emailed to the Leader of Opposition and SODELPA Parliamentary Members on the directive.
The Chief Justice stated that since no directive was issued, the Defendant was not obliged to either advise or indicate that he would be voting in support of the Budget and Bill No.17 or he would abstain from voting.
He says the mere fact that First Defendant spoke in support of the Budget and Bill No.17 does not establish that he voted in support or abstained from voting.
Justice Kumar adds, there is no provision in the Constitution which makes the seat of a Member of Parliament vacant if the member speaks in support of or against a motion before Parliament.