Opposition boycotts Parliament over Minister’s alleged breach of COVID-19 measures

Leader of Opposition MP Ralph Regenvanu (c) flanked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition MP Charlot Salwai,(l) and MP Jotham Napat (r) at the brief press conference, yesterday. Photo: Terence Malapa

The First Ordinary Session of Parliament yesterday morning did not proceed because there was no two -thirds majority present as required by law.

The Opposition bloc boycotted the First Sitting of the First Ordinary Session while the government had 29 MPs present but still did not constitute the quorum which is two-thirds majority. The Speaker then adjourned parliament to Tuesday next week.

In a brief press conference, the Opposition Leader divulged the reasons behind the boycott.

“The only and simple reason why we boycotted the First Ordinary Session of Parliament today (yesterday) is because the Minister of Climate Change, Bruno Leingkone has breached the COVID -19 rules and measures by visiting the COVID -19 quarantine areas, as reported in Daily Post issue today (yesterday), and this morning came into the parliament chambers (yesterday morning),” Leader of Opposition Ralph Regenvanu said.

The Opposition called on the Ministry of Health to give assurance to all MPs and staff of Parliament that is it safe for parliament to convene, then the Opposition will attend Parliament on Tuesday next week.

“The State Minister who advises the Council of Ministers (COM) on COVID-19 and signs orders relating to what should be done, and is directly responsible for the NDMO which is under his jurisdiction, has breached the measures,” said Mr Regenvanu.

The Opposition bloc has call on the Prime Minister to deal with Minister Leingkone, for what the Opposition bloc claims, breaching the COVID -19 measures by visiting the quarantine facility.

“Only last week, four police officers were quarantined for breaching the social distancing measures. and now the minister who is directly responsible for the measures,” Opposition Leader Regenvanu said.

“Everybody observes the measures by the authorities but the state minister who is himself responsible for the COVID-19 measures had breached them.

The Opposition also called on the Minister of Health to give assurance to all Members of Parliament and the staff of Parliament that it is safe for MPs to meet when the state minister had been to Quarantine areas and then entered the parliamentary chambers.

In response, Government Public Relations Officer, Fred Vurobaravu, said Prime Minister Bob Loughman, has stated that the Opposition Leader and the Opposition bloc should have the courtesy to provide evidence that Minister Leingkone made contact with the repatriated citizens before deciding to boycott the parliament.

He added that if there was evidence, then the Opposition Leader should meet the Prime Minister on the matter. Mr Vurobaravu said the boycott by the Opposition is politically motivated and to do with numbers of MPs in parliament.

“The Minister of Climate Change went to the quarantine areas with COVID-19 national committee officials, and respected the social distancing measures,” the PRO said.

“They discussed quarantine facilities matters with the hotel officials and observed the social distancing measures. At no time did he made contact with the repatriated citizens at the quarantine facility.”

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