Interview with the Hon Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji
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Interview with the Hon Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of Fiji

February 22, 2020


Welcome to About the House. It’s not often a new
parliament is born, but for the nation of
Fiji, the establishment of a new unicameral
parliamentary system marks a new chapter
for the Pacific Island. The one-chamber parliament
comprises of 50 members. And more than 90% of them
are new to the job, including the Speaker of the Parliament,
Dr. Jiko F. Luveni. In March, she led a delegation
to Canberra, the first visit by Fijian parliamentarians
in over a decade. Welcoming the
opportunity to speak with more seasoned
parliamentarians, Speaker Luveni said the
visit was a valuable one. So we’ve come with an open mind. We needed this exposure to talk
with other parliamentarians on how they play their role,
one as parliamentarian, and also in dealing with
the procedures of the House. And because we are new– the
good thing with Fiji is I’m new. The parliamentarians
are new as well. So we are all learning
at the same time. Even the Clerk to Parliament,
as you name them here– we call them Secretary
General– is new as well. So the visit here really
has given us an opportunity to talk with experienced
parliamentarians and how they handle some of the
issues that was unclear to us. We had them under our
sleeves when we came. During the visit, delegates
observed Question Time and met with several
Australian MPs and senators. Speaker Luveni also
had the opportunity to talk about her new
role with the Speaker of the Australian House
of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop. She’s such an experienced
parliamentarian, having served in
Parliament for 27 years. And now that’s she Speaker,
she has that experience and the knowledge to be to
perform her duties the best, I’m sure, that she’s doing. Different from me– I’ve
never been a parliamentarian. And I was elected Speaker
after the election in September last year. So that is a big difference
between the two of us. And she’s got the standing
orders, rules, and procedures at her fingertips and is
very confident with how she would control the
parliamentarians from the way that she’s relating to me. I would like to be able to
have that kind of confidence very soon in the near future. Speaker Luveni is also the
first female Speaker for Fiji, and said she would like to
be considered as a role model for young Pacific women
interested in politics. No stranger to
challenging the status quo in male-dominated
industries, Speaker Luveni was also Fiji’s
first female dentist. Her impressive CV includes
over 47 years of experience, including working for the
United Nations Population Fund and in the Fijian government. I really am blessed that I
have been given the opportunity to be the first female Speaker,
particularly when we are really going out all efforts
of female advocates to try and entice women to
be involved in positions of leadership and to take
on those responsibilities. And because of that– and
that is my goal, to increase the number of
women in Parliament and even coming up to
there to be a Speaker. And I’m grateful to
the current government for electing me to be
their first female Speaker. And I really would like to be
the mentor for other women. Hopefully they know that a
woman has reached that Speaker position in Fiji, and
there can be others. It opens the doors
for other women to also reach the same goal. Speaker Luveni will be
hosting the Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships
Forum in Suva in late April. The three-day event will foster
relations between Pacific and Australian
parliamentarians and help with their understanding
of what factors contribute to Pacific women’s
success in achieving political office
and the support they require once they are elected. This is the third annual forum. And for the first time,
male parliamentarians will join their
female colleagues to discuss gender equality. Find out more about the
forum at pacwip.org.

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