Pacific parliamentary leaders currently meeting in Apia are split over the idea of retaining reserved parliamentary seats for women.
Several Pacific Islands have embraced the idea and are hoping to execute it when its election time as Samoa executes theirs in the early 2016 election.
Tonga and the Cook Islands have adopted the idea while other islands are just in the process of discussing it.
The Kiribati Speaker, Hon. Taomati Iuta did not mix words when he frankly told the Presiding Officers and Clerks Conference (POCC) members of his country’s stand on the issue.
“Kiribati is not fond of the idea and we are not entertaining it,” said Speaker Iuta.
Speaker Iuta was responding to views from other members who supported the Cook Islands Speakers call on Parliament to address gender issues.
Whilst Speaker Iuta supports more women parliamentarians, however, reserving seats for them will only be seen as another weakness on the part of women in securing seats on their own merits.
He noted Samoa as the instigator of such moves which is now becoming the “trend in the Pacific”.
His country’s’ support of women parliamentarians saw them set up a mock parliament for women two years ago with Speaker Iuta spearheading the event.
The Kingdom of Tonga has taken a step further by not only adopting the idea of but has selected Dr. Ana Taufeʻulungaki, a non-elected politician to Cabinet.
The selection was done by the Prime Minister. Tonga’s Parliament Public Awareness and Education Officer, Dr.Sione Fatanitavake said the Prime Minister has the power to select anyone to the seat.
“There is interest from women for such positions in Parliament,” said Dr. Sione.
They need encouragement and training and recently Dr. Fatanitavake and his team set up a mock parliamentary exercise for women in Tonga.
Instead of inviting women to participate, they had to apply.
“Seventy applied and were all accepted in the mock exercise,” said Dr. Sione.
The number of applicants indicates the high percentage of interest from women.
Speaker Rattle of Cook Island says gone are the days when this was only a job for men and despite all the training and promotions done in the Pacific, “it is still predominantly considered a man’s role.”
Speaker Rattle was elected from any electoral constituency but was appointed by the Prime Minister.
Whilst she herself went through the process of being appointed, she still prefers women to be elected in.
In Samoa, Parliament and Government plays a big role in challenging women into parliament.
Samoa has already passed the Electoral Amendment allowing five seats for women and according to Samoa’s representative to the conference; this is how high Samoa respects the women’s role in the development of the country.
SOURCE: Talamua, July 3rd 2014: http://www.talamua.com/pacific-parliamentary-leaders-divided-over-reserv...