Tuvalu aiming at major parliamentary reform | Pacific Beat

Tuvalu aiming at major parliamentary reform

Tuvalu aiming at major parliamentary reform

Updated 23 January 2014, 9:40 AEDT

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga has committed his government to being more proactive in how it runs the country and deals with the people in it.

Last week a by election saw a former speaker of parliament Otinielu Tauteleimalae Tausi re-elected, and announcing he would be supporting the government. That gives Mr Sopoaga the backing of two thirds of the house, and he believes that is a mandate to implement change. And if the current speaker of parliament, a member of the opposition camp doesn't want to support the government, one of the first changes to be implement when parliament sits in March, may be the election of a new speaker.

Presenter: Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney

Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu

SOPOAGA: He is a person, a leader, a politician that is very, very experienced, a retired civil servant and diplomat, and more so that he has decided to join our group, not so much on the basis of friendships, but importantly on the basis of principles that he agrees, the principles, the sort of policies that this government is adopting and following. And we are happy he has joined us. I certainly believe the experience and the leadership that Otinielu Tausi's going to bring to the group would be of extreme importance to Tuvalu, and certainly to the government. Now we have already taken an oath for him as a member of parliament and he's working with us right now although he's sitting as an ordinary member of parliament for the time being.

COONEY: When does parliament next convene Prime Minister?

SOPOAGA: I have scheduled parliament for March.

COONEY: Is it likely that when that sitting is held that the new member will be perhaps nominated as the next speaker of parliament, are there any thoughts along those lines?

SOPOAGA: Well right now of course the current speaker of parliament is still in office and as long as he's there of course we cannot do much at this time, but I am allowing the current speaker of parliament to digest the outcome of the by-elections, to digest the fact that the new MP has joined the government side and to make his own decision. Of course I cannot force a decision on him, he's the current speaker, but he is from the opposition camp. So it's up to him to decide how he's going to handle and reflect on the result of the by-election. But you know come March of course the voice of the majority of the members of parliament will have to be raised in the session of parliament and we'll see how it will unfold at that stage.

COONEY: You mentioned priorities for your government, what are the things that you are hearing and seeing as the major issues that must be addressed? Issues that you see but I suppose also issues that are being raised by people in Tuvalu with you?

SOPOAGA: Well parliament has to reform itself, certainly we need to improve the governance issues of parliament, its rules and procedures, also we need to look at the functions of parliament on legislations, but particularly also on policies, to be more involved and based with the people. But also mindful as we only have three sessions of parliament before general elections so we don't have much time.

COONEY: When are elections due?

SOPOAGA: We have elections sometime around March 2015.

COONEY: You and I have spoken on many occasions in relation to the issue of climate change and global warming. In the past few months I'm curious how you've seen that debate go, we've seen one of the big neighbours in the Pacific, Australia, change government and perhaps move away from the commitment that Australia once had on that issue, and certainly less commitment when it comes to financial dealings and aid for the region?

SOPOAGA: In terms of aid and assistance we haven't seen any significant change in the policy of Australia and that's something we are very appreciative of. And I believe we will work closely with our friends Australia in that area. Now on the issue of climate change of course there are quite a number of divergencies between ourselves. Understandably of course due to the policies of Tuvalu, our aspirations because of our fear and scare of the problems of climate change. But we respect what the government of Australia, their policies. There are two things that if I may that Tuvalu would really ask our partners under the climate change regime; one of course is the right to reach some sort of legally binding agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gases. But that's something that is being played out in the formal process, in the UN and the COP processes. But on the other hand even the two stories now about the level of greenhouse bases it is critical as well to encourage countries who can make a difference to start doing things on their own. And we are aware, Australia, a number of states are already doing a lot, shifting to renewable energies, and these are very positive developments. I'm also aware in the United States things are happening on the ground even without and internationally agreed legally binding agreement. I mean these are very, very helpful.


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