Hon. Gavoka’s Statement on Minister Reddy’s attempts to silence petitioners

Opposition MP Viliame Gavoka said in a statement today that the lengths to which Education Minister Reddy has gone to in recent days to ‘break’ the solidarity of 240 concerned parents and the Vanua as expressed through their signing of the petition I presented on their behalf, by parading those he managed to persuade to withdraw their names or make contradictory statements on the issue is not only ‘pitiful’ but more importantly it demonstrates that the Minister is not confident enough about his own policy that he is doing everything he can to stop it being subjected to the full scrutiny of the people and affected parents.

His actions are also contrary to the purpose and spirit of Standing Committees of parliament which are established by the Constitution.

One very important element of the Standing Committees is its obligation to ensure as many people as possible have access to its hearings. Standing Orders 111 specifically spells out the access that the committees are obliged to provide the public. This right of access to committees for our citizens is reinforced in Sec 72 (1) & (2) of the Constitution itself.

Mr. Gavoka said Minister Reddy’s approach flies in the face of the Speakers own interpretation of Parliament and the role they play. She is quoted as saying at a recent USP organized symposium on national security that quote ‘Parliaments are natural places for mediation and places where diversity is represented, competing points of view are articulated and where dialogue can build consensus. She went on to say ‘these core functions are essential in mitigating and resolving conflict’
The representative role of Parliament is about ensuring that all groups in a society – based on religion, ethnicity, tribes, political, gender, socio-economic and cultural groups have the opportunity for meaningful participation and representation in decision making process,” Unquote
Gavoka said as a member of Parliament and citizen of Nadroga, he was obliged to take up the concerns of the constituents and he filed the petition which was now before the Standing Committee on Social Affairs and he encouraged all parents concerned about the new sweeping changes being implemented by Minister Reddy to go and speak their minds at the meetings.

Gavoka said put simply, the concerned parents don’t want their school sacrificed for the technical college to emerge and the lack of or limited ‘consultations with the parents’ is what is fueling things. Gavoka said meeting Provincial officials is not the same as meeting ‘concerned parents’ so the answer to the problem Minister is go ‘meet the parents’ hear their concerns, explain your plans, agree to compromises if you have to and produce a ‘win-win situation’.

Authorized By Viliame Gavoka