Questions and Answers in Parliament

Government News

Issue No. 07/2021 – Monday, 1 February 2021 (Kitiona Tausi)

In the last Parliament session (14-18 December 2020), several questions were asked by Private Members seeking answers from Cabinet Ministers.

One of the Private Members from Nukufetau, Hon Faatoga Talama requested Government for an update on the national status in percentage, regarding renewable energy or the solar knowing that it was 27% after all the islands have been installed with a solar system.

Minister of Transport, Energy and Tourism, Hon Nielu Meisake revealed that it now stands at 19% and the reduced percentage was due to the increase in consumption and secondary because of the continuing damage on batteries caused by Cyclone Pam and Cyclone Tino.

Following other supplementary questions from Hon Talama, Hon Meisake further explained that after the 5 years since the introduction of solar power to the outer islands, Government has started to seek options as to how to address the issue of solar batteries and he confirmed to Parliament that the Australian Government has agreed to provide some funding to assist with the procurement of new solar batteries.

Private Member from Nui, Hon Mackenzie Kiritome wanted to know the current status of the supplementary programs approved in the last session of Parliament in July 2020.

Minister of Finance, Hon Seve Paeniu explained that from the $18.9 million that was approved in that budget, $13.7 million (72%) has been spent. Responding to further supplementary questions regarding the remaining 28%, Hon Paeniu explained that 70% has been paid for the procurement of medical equipment and the 30% will be paid upon the delivery and installation of the equipment which amounted to $5.6 million

Private Member from Nui, Hon Dr. Puakena Boreham requested Government to explain the process taken for the award of scholarships in the tertiary level for 2021.

Prime Minister, Hon Kausea Natano responded by saying, “it is the same normal process except the selection of awardees under the SELF and their placement in overseas institutions were changed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Private Member from Nukufetau, Rt Hon Enele Sosene Sopoaga wanted Government to explain as to what kind of situation that would allow Parliament Rules of Procedures to be suspended. He further explained that according to Parliament’s Rule and Procedures, a motion can be moved to allow the Speaker to suspend the rules, but what are the triggers can a motion be moved in that situation?

Rt Hon Sopoaga accepted the Rules but only where it does not violate the Constitution, the Public Finance Act and especially the Rules and Procedures. Rt Hon Sopoaga asked if there are unwritten reasons that can allow the suspension of Rules. “I am not referring to the incident in our last July meeting, “said Rt Hon Sopoaga.

“I am really concerned that we are acting like cannibals, because at any time a requirement of the House is blocked, Rules can be suspended, but I am suggesting that we introduce a procedure for causes that trigger national security or any other issues of national interest,” said Rt Hon Sopoaga.

Minister of Finance, Hon Seve Paeniu completely rejected the use of the word ‘cannibals’ by the Rt Hon Enele Sopoaga saying it is a word that should not be used in this House. In responding to the question, he said it is a misplaced question, saying, “these are Rules of the House. If a Member questioned the Rules, there is a way or a process. It should be raised to the Rules and Procedures Committee to consider it and then to bring it up to the House.

“The original question in not right because it is not the Government that formulate the Rules but we, and there is a procedure and I request you that we should end discussing this question,” said Hon Paeniu.

Rt Hon Sopoaga raised a point of order saying this Member is trying to direct you to stop my right of raising supplementary questions, but if he is more intelligent than we including the Minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, then it’s okay, but the question only requested for clear explanations, as these are not perceptions.

Hon Minister Kofe explained that like the Finance, “there is a process if we want to amend or change the rules. But I am encouraging the Rules and Procedures Committee to meet to review our Rules and Procedures which I think there are other issues of concern that required to be addressed by the Rules and Procedures Committee.

Rt Hon Enele Sopoaga praised the contribution from Hon Kofe saying, “this is an intelligent contribution required. That was the requirement of the question to have it taken to the Rule and Procedures Committee for its deliberation,” said Rt Hon Sopoaga.

Private Member, Hon Mackenzie Kiritome wanted to know if Government had any assistance to businesses and especially hotel businesses on the capital in line with the impacts of the COVID-19.

Hon Minister of Finance, Mr. Seve Paeniu praised the question saying, “this is a relevant and an important question because it is vital to people’s livelihood. He responded to the question saying, “there are 4 kinds of assistance Government has provided:

  1. $300,000 grant to DBT to be available for loans
  2. Government taxes were relaxed like the consumption tax, room taxes and personal income tax
  3. NBT relaxed loan criteria to enable people easy access to loans
  4. TNPF introduced COVID-19 relied benefits which benefit businesses as well

Private Member, Hon Namoliki Sualiki enquired as to when the excavator for Nukulaelae would be shipped to the island.

Minister Hon Katepu Laoi answered, “it would be on the first trip next year of the barge to the island.”

Hon Sualiki commented that the new barge may be much bigger than the new boat harbor on the island and wondered as to how can this be possible if the barge cannot sail through the harbor.

Private Member, Hon Dr. Puakena Boreham questioned the revenue the Fisheries Department has received for this year 2000 and would receive in 2021.

Acting Minister of Fisheries and Trade, Hon Amupelosa Tehulu said, $42 million for 2020 and $39 million for 2021.

In a supplementary question that followed, Hon Tehulu said the sales of ‘FV Taumoana’ and accumulated funds from the PNA are not included in this year’s revenue.

Minister of Finance further explained the issue and said, “the budget for fisheries revenue for this year is $34 million and the actual revenue realized from fishing licenses is $40 million. The revenue from the sales of ‘FV Taumoana’ is not included and for 2021, it would be $52 million including the $10 million from the sale of the FV Taumoana.

Following another supplementary question asked by Hon Dr. Boreham, Hon Paeniu explained that the $10 million from the sale of the FV Taumoana has been received and had been invested in a special account in case there are claims against the vessel, and after 6 months and no claims received then we can draw this money. This six months’ period will expire in February/March 2021.

Private Member, Hon Mackenzie Kiritome question the number diversion trips the Nivaga III made to Vaitupu.

Hon Minister Nielu Meisake said that there were 6 diversions in the year up to the third quarter of this year, 2020. He further explained the purposes of these diversions in order:

  1. Request from a family to uplift a student from Motufoua for the funeral of his father in Funafuti.
  2. To bring the High Chief of the Island of Vaitupu to Funafuti together with the workers who came to work on the island community project in Funafuti.
  3. Transport TEC employees to fix the problem with the power on Vaitupu and uplift EKT’s empowerment team from Vaitupu to Nui.
  4. Uplift TEC employees to assist the TEC employees on the island and to transport a corpse.
  5. Transport a team for the ISP work at Vaitupu including staff from the Local Government Office
  6. A diversion from the northern voyage to uplift a child of a staff of the NBT on Vaitupu.

“A total of $4, 696.20 was spent on these diversions,” said the Minister.

Rt Hon Member Enele Sosene Sopoaga asked if there are new funding Tuvalu has secured to combat the impacts of climate change.

Hon Minister of Finance, Mr. Seve Paeniu answered in the followings:

  1. Water Security, a fund of US$6.5 million provided by ADB and bilateral partners.
  2. Climate and Information Services, a fund of US$8.5 million provided under the Green Climate Fund (GCF).
  3. Displacement and Security, a fund of $2 million provided under the UN Peace Building Fund.

When asked if these funds have been received, Hon Paeniu said they have been secured. Rt Hon Sopoaga revealed that he had information that the US$8.5 million for the Climate Information Services project is only a proposal.

Minister Paeniu said that according to information he has received, the fund has been received, but if the Member has other information, it is good if he shares it to this House.

Hon Monise Laafai wanted to know as to why the delay in the appointment of magistrates for the Lands Court and the Island Magistrate Court and especially on the Island of Nanumaga.

Hon Minister Simon Kofe said, the approval to make the appointment has been passed by the Acting Chief Justice to the PSC and he assured the House that the appointment will be brought up in the next PSC Meeting.

(To continue in the next issue)

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