THE Privilege Standing Committee is to speed up the screening process of government’s reply to allegations made against the Prime Minister other six Cabinet Ministers in a petition which alleged a breached of the Constitution.
The Speaker of Parliament’s direction came when the Prime Minster Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva asked yesterday and today for their right of reply to allegations made against them in the petition.
Lord Fakafanua also emphasized the importance of his impartiality and the independence of the committee’s work. However the Chairman of the Committee, Lord Tu’iha’anga told the House that the reply from government was received last Friday and due process must be followed.
The PM said the petition which was read in June contained serious accusations against them and they have a right of reply.
His concern rests with the lengthy process taken for screening of their reply. Hon. Pohiva said these allegations had tarnished his family’s reputation.
“Two of my grandchildren dodged school to avoid name calling from school mates that their grandfather is a thief and so forth,” explained the PM.
Earlier this week the Minister of Police Hon. Mateni Tapueluelu asked the Speaker the same thing but no definite answer was given.
Hence, he asked the Chair and Members of the Privilege Committee to respect the plea from government, speed up the process and report back to Parliament at their earliest convenience.
The petition was submitted to Parliament before the discussion of the budget in June. Petitioners called for it to discuss along with the budget but it was rejected.
The petitioners also asked for an audit be carried on some government ministries’ budgets from 2015 to date. It also proposed for the impeachment of the seven Cabinet Ministers including the PM.
Addressing MPs on the issue Hon. Pohiva ask Parliament to consider their plea a serious matter. He also mentioned such serious accusation have tarnished their reputation. What worries the PM is the lengthy process taken before it reads in Parliament.
Another issue of concern to the PM was a possibility for his Majesty to dissolve Parliament again.
Lord Nuku the ‘Eua Noble Representative corrected the petition did not seek any reply.
Tu’iha’angana also pointed out there is no such legislation which allows for the submission of a government’s reply.
He also revealed some of the appendices attached in their reply are in English and this breaches the House Rules.
The Chairman of the Privilege Committee mentioned they also identified some reply are straight forward while others are beating around the bush.
In rebuttal the Trade Minister Hon. Dr. Tu’i Uata said it’s not for the Privilege Committee to decide. The reply given is totally up to the accused to provide.
Lord Tu’iha’angana maintained their work is done according to the House Rules and confirmed the screening process is ongoing.
He added one of the shortfalls in the government’s reply is the use of profane language.
He reassured the PM the screening process continues and will report to Parliament once it's completed. For now the committee must adhere to the process instructed by the House Rules.
Meanwhile the MAF Minister Hon. Semisi Fakahau had reservations on Parliament’s decision to allow petitioners to direct Parliament on what to do.
He said Parliament shouldn’t give in to their demand. The petitioners should have provided the evidence instead of Parliament directing the Auditor to carry out audit work on their behalf.