Fiji’s Speaker of Parliament Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu says that the 24 Members of the FijiFirst Party (In Suspension) will not be part of Parliament proceeding or its Committees as long as they remained suspended.

In a statement released Thursday, the Office of the Speaker of Parliament said his office has received correspondence from the Acting Registrar of Political Parties, informing the Secretariat of the suspension of the FijiFirst Party which was effective from Wednesday.

“In light of the suspension of the registration of the FijiFirst Party, all twenty-four members are not entitled to take part in the proceedings of Parliament or any committee of Parliament for the duration of the suspension of the registration of the FijiFirst Party.”

“This also means that all twenty-four members are precluded from participating in all related activities such as representing Parliament in meetings, workshops, seminars, conferences, assemblies, and so forth, for the period of suspension until the suspension of the registration is lifted.”

The statement also highlighted that all 24 Members of the FijiFirst Party cannot be entitled to any remuneration from Parliament for the duration of the suspension.

Meanwhile, the General-Secretary of the FijiFirst Party (In Suspension), Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has written to the Electoral Commission to review the decision of the Registrar of Political Parties and remove what it terms as an unfair suspension.

Sayed-Khaiyum said that in accordance with Section 17 of the Electoral Act, the FijiFirst (In Suspension) has written a letter to the Electoral Commission and issued a complaint against the decision of the Acting Supervisor of Elections, who informed the Party (In Suspension) that we have been suspended for non-compliance with Section 26(2) of the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act.

He said that the Party (In Suspension) lodge this complaint against her decision since it has not afforded, in a fundamental manner, due process and natural justice to FijiFirst.

“We also find the decision to be grossly unfair, biased and prejudicial to FijiFirst.”

“Furthermore, please also note that the ASoE herself has failed to comply with, but not limited to Section 26 of, the Political Parties Act.”

Sayed-Khaiyum said the Party (In Suspension) confirms, as it did last month through its treasurer, that it will provide its audited accounts together with the source of funds – we have always complied with all the laws pertaining to financial accountability using internationally recognised and accredited auditors.

“We also wish to highlight Section 5(8) of the Electoral Act, which prohibits the ASoE from participating and interfering in the discussions and decisions of the Electoral Commission pertaining to this compliant.” he said

“Given that Fiji is approaching the announcement and debate of the National Budget, the Electoral Commission must deal with this matter with utmost priority, since the suspension hinders the participation of the largest Parliamentary Party.”

“This will have an impact on the proper functioning of our Parliamentary Democracy as guaranteed under the Fijian Constitution.”

However, the Registrar of Political Parties and Acting SOE Ana Mataiciwa said that she was just made aware of the letter and that the letter has been addressed to the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

Mataiciwa said she has no comment on the matter, however the letter sent out to the political parties that were suspended were verified and vetted by the Fijian Elections Office Legal Team.

Mataiciwa said she is bound by the rules and responsibilities of the country.

“Just like in any other suspension that has been carried out, this is not the first time that we are doing the suspension; this was done in 2020 and 2021. The notices in the letter have been vetted legally before being sent out. At this stage, the FEO stands by the notice and the letter that has been sent out.”

Mataiciwa said Section 26(2) of the Act requires all parties to provide to the Registrar, within three months after the end of each financial year, the record of accounts of their income, expenditure, assets, and liabilities audited by an auditor certified by the Fiji Institute of Accountants.

She said that these four parties have not complied with the requirements.

Mataiciwa said the parties have 60 days to remedy the breach or contravention or face deregistration.

She said during the period of suspension, the party cannot operate, function, represent itself, or hold itself out as a political party.

The Acting SOE said two other political parties that have failed to submit their list of sources of funds are the Social Democratic Liberal Party and the People’s Alliance (PAP).

Mataiciwa reiterates that according to Section 23(4) of the Act, a party that fails to submit its sources of funds is liable to a penalty of $100 (US$50) for each day the non-compliance continues, and if it remains non-compliant after 30 days, the party must be deregistered.

She said the 30-day period will end on 29 May.

Mataiciwa is reminding all non-complying parties that failure to submit will result in deregistration.