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The Senate of Fiji is the upper chamber of Parliament. It is the less powerful of the two chambers; it may not initiate legislation, but may amend or veto it. The Senate's powers over financial bills are more restricted: it may veto them in their entirety, but may not amend them. The House of Representatives may override a Senatorial veto by passing the bill a second time in the parliamentary session immediately following the one in which it was rejected by the Senate, after a minimum period of six months. Amendments to the Constitution are excepted: the veto of the Senate is absolute. Following the passage of a bill by the House of Representatives, the Senate has 21 days (7 days in the case of a bill classified as "urgent") to approve, amend, or reject it; if at the expiry of that period the Senate has done nothing about it, it is deemed to have passed the bill.
Composition of the Senate
The Senate has 32 members. Formally, they are appointed by the President for five-year terms coinciding with the term of the House of Representatives. Constitutionally, however, the President is required to accept the nominees of specified institutions. 14 Senators are chosen by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs), though in practice it has chosen to delegate this prerogative to Fiji's 14 Provincial Councils, each choosing one Senator. A further 9 Senators are chosen by the Prime Minister and 8 by the Leader of the Opposition. The one remaining Senator is selected by the Council of Rotuma, a Fijian dependency.
From among their own members, the Senators elect a President and Vice-President, whose roles are similar to those of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively. As of September 2006, the President of the Senate is Ratu Kinijoji Maivalili; the Vice-President is Hafiz Khan. They were chosen in June 2006 to replace Taito Waqavakatoga and Kenneth Low, both of whom had retired from the Senate.
The built-in near-majority of Fijian chiefs in the Senate gives them an effective veto over contentious social legislation, as well as constitutional amendments, provided they vote as a block, as they will almost certainly be joined by enough other senators to muster a majority. In addition, any changes to clauses of the constitution guaranteeing indigenous Fijian ownership and control of most of the land must be approved by 9 of the 14 Senators chosen by the Great Council of Chiefs, as well as by a majority in the Senate as a whole.
Senators, like their fellow-parliamentarians from the House of Representatives, may be appointed to the Cabinet - the executive arm of government.
History of the Senate
The Fijian Senate came into being in 1972, when the old unicameral Legislative Council was replaced by the bicameral Parliament. The Senate has been restructured twice since the original constitutional structures went into effect.
From 1972 to 1987, the Senate consisted of 22 members. Appointed by the Governor-General on the nomination of the Great Council of Chiefs (8), the Prime Minister (7), the Leader of the Opposition (6), and the Council of Rotuma (1), Senators served six-year terms, with half retiring every three years. The first term of office for half of the nominees of the Great Council of Chiefs and of the Leader of the Opposition, 3 of the 7 nominees of the Prime Minister, and the lone Rotuman Senator, was for three years only, ending in 1975. The Senate was a permanent body; it was never dissolved.
The Constitution was rewritten following two military coups in 1987. The Senate was expanded to 34 members appointed by the President for four-year terms, with half retiring every two years. The President appointed 24 Senators on the nomination of the Great Council of Chiefs, 1 on the nomination of the Council of Rotuma, and a further 9 at his own discretion from the Indo-Fijian and minority communities. This arrangement was in effect from 1992 to 1999. The first term of 12 of the 24 Senators nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs and 4 of the 9 appointed to represent other communities was for two years only, ending in 1994. As previously, the Senate was never dissolved.
The present Constitutional arrangements came into effect in 1997-1998, and the first Senate so appointed took office in 1999. For the first time, all Senators served concurrent, five-year terms, coinciding with the term of the House of Representatives.
As of 28 September 2006, the Fijian Senate comprises the following persons:
Nominated by the Bose Levu Vakaturaga
Nominated by the Prime Minister
|Ratu Jone Bouwalu|
|Adi Samanunu Cakobau-Talakuli|
|Ratu Jekesoni Lewenilovo Yavalanavanua|
|Adi Lagamu Vuiyasawa|
Nominated by the Leader of the Opposition
|Jokapeci Talei Koroi|
|Sachida Nand Sharma|