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Parliament

Respect the constitutional separation of powers: Speaker tells MP’s

April 3, 2019 12:55 pm
Speaker of Parliament Ratu Epeli Nailatikau [Source: Fiji Parliament]

Speaker of parliament Ratu Epeli Nailatikau spoke at length and reminded MP’s on the importance of respecting the constitutional arms of the state.

This being the Judiciary, Legislature of parliament and the Executive.

He says the three arms of state must always be upheld and never jeopardized.

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This comes after he overruled Opposition MP Mitieli Bulanauca’s petition seeking parliament to ensure a fair return and effective participation of resource owners in the development and utilization of the forest resource.

This basically means to revert the ownership of pine and mahogany plantations to landowners.

“The petition is clearly an attempt to get parliament to take action that’s not within the power of parliament to take. As such, this petition cannot be allowed under standing orders. Honorable members, it must be emphasized there are existing written laws that cater for forests as well as pine and mahogany forests and industries. This includes the Fiji pine act 1980, Mahogany Industry Development Act 2010 and Forests Act 1992.”

The Speaker highlighted these laws make specific provisions for pine and mahogany plantations as well as for native timber species.

Under the Itaukei Lands Trust Act 1940 and State Lands Act 1945, numerous Itaukei and state lands are leased for various purposes including for pine, forestry and mahogany.

The Speaker says these leases are legal instruments which are issued under the written law.

He reminded the MPs that the bill of rights enshrined in the Fijian constitution describes the protection of ownership and interest in land and also provides for protection from arbitrary conviction.

“As a legislative arm of the state parliament has a constitutional duty to ensure these fundamental rights are upheld and respected and not undermined in any way. HM, given the above it’s only proper for parliament to make any determination with respect to ownership of these leases as legal instruments. The Parliament doesn’t have the authority to revert the ownership of lands which are held under a leasehold by any person or entirety including government companies. Any action with respect to an existing lease must be taken in accordance with the leases. Any matter of enforcement or negotiation of such leases must be addressed in accordance with the established law by the lessor and the lessee who are legal parties to these leases.”

Ratu Epeli reminded MP’s that any negotiation or renegotiation of any lease is the prerogative of the executive with respect to leases taken by the state or any state entirety under existing written laws.

He adds such matters are to be addressed by the Executive and not parliament and any legal issue arising must be addressed in the court of law and not parliament.

“Parliament must not usurp the authority of the executive and the procedures and the authority that’s provided under the written law. HM, the use of petitions for such a purpose is fundamentally and legally incorrect and is a clear abuse of parliamentary process. The constitutional separation of powers between the three arms of the state must always be upheld and never jeopardized.”

Ratu Epeli reiterated that legally binding leases and other instruments issued under a written law must be dealt with in accordance with those leases and instruments and not by parliament.

The Speaker overruled the petition calling it out of order.

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