Voting by acclamation: Chapman says debate could have been easily resolved by vote

Former secretary general of parliament Mary Chapman at her home in Nausori. Picture: RAMA/FILE

The debate on voting by acclamation in Parliament should be resolved by a parliamentary vote, says former general secretary to Parliament Mary Chapman.

Mrs Chapman was responding to the ruling by the Speaker of Parliament, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, that Parliament’s Business Committee had the power to decide on voting processes in Parliament.

Mrs Chapman, a career parliamentary official who served as editor of Parliament’s Hansard reports before her appointment as Parliament secretary-general in 1992, held the position for 14 years until the overthrow of the Government in the 2006 military coup, Mrs Chapman said “voting by acclamation” was not part of the Parliamentary Standing Orders.

“Standing Orders are pursuant to the Constitution and if you’re going to amend the Standing Orders, you must come back to the House to resolve it,” she said.

“All this debate about acclamation could have been easily avoided by resolving it in the House, instead of the Speaker using this (method).” Mrs Chapman said any amendments of Standing Orders proposed by the Business Committee should be brought to Parliament for resolution before any changes were made to them.

“The Business Committee is not Parliament; it’s a committee of Parliament,” she said. “If the Business Committee decides that voting should be done by acclamation then it should come back to Parliament, and amendments be made in the Standing Orders,” she said.

Mrs Chapman said that in her time as secretary-general, “we did everything according to the rules”.

“On top of that, we had members of Parliament who were seasoned politicians and had vast experience.” She said that previous Fiji Parliaments followed the Westminster system under which any MP could call for a “division” on any matter requiring a vote.

“What I understand from reading the current Standing Orders is that “roll call” is the same as division, where members are individually called (to vote).

“Acclamation is different, where you have voting by voices, and the vote count is decided at the Speaker’s discretion.”

Parliament Secretariat civil education and media unit official Bale Dolokoto said in response that Ratu Epeli would be notified.

“Please be advised that your queries will be tabled with the honourable Speaker,” she said.

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