Last sitting of the Fono Ekepule for 2022 postponed, will not be broadcast live

The 18th Assembly pass the first reading of the four Constitution Amendment Bills yesterday

The last sitting of the Fono Ekepule was supposed to take place yesterday but didn’t happen because only nine members were present, not meeting the required quorum of ten. 

In an informal session, the members discussed the options of having their Adjournment Debate when the members extend their well-wishes to their constituencies and thank their families and supporters for the year that’s been. It was decided to postpone the meeting to Tuesday next week, 27th December.

Two bills are also on the Order Paper for the final meeting of the year, with the introduction of the Immigration Amendment Bill (Health Emergencies) and the Public Revenues Write-Off Bill 2022. The latter is for the lawmakers to approve the write-off of certain outstanding debts owed to the government.

On Tuesday, in a break from decades of convention, a statement from the Office of the Clerk to the Assembly notifying BCN that the Fono Ekepule was not going to be broadcast live on Radio Sunshine.

According to the statement, the reason for not broadcasting the Fono live on Radio Sunshine “While the upgraded audio/visual system in the debating chamber is ready to be used, there is still some equipment to be installed to carry the signal from the new Fale Fono to BCN studios at Fonuakula. For that reason, the proceedings of the Assembly will be recorded and will be played back later.”

Common Roll Member Terry Coe told BCN News that in his nearly 30 years in the Fono Ekepule, this is the first time that the Fono will not be broadcast live on Radio Sunshine.

The new conferencing system raised many questions last year when the government confirmed that the company Kodum New Zealand was going to install a $250,000 system.

In November last year, the government told BCN news that out of six tenders applications received, they decided on a system by Kodum NZ which is designed to cater to both radio and television as well as the requirements for the Hansard. The addition of broadcast standard PTZ cameras will provide the Assembly with the capability of live coverage on television as well as live streaming on the Internet.

Because of the pandemic, the engineers were not able to install the system before the official opening of Fale Fono II in May this year.

The Broadcasting Corporation was asked to assist install a temporary conference system. This meant removing the conference system from the old chambers at the original Fale Fono, and installing a make-shift system at the new FFII chambers which enabled the meetings since May this year to be broadcast live on Radio Sunshine.

BCN News spoke to some members of the Fono Ekepule and they said that there was no point in holding a meeting to extend their well-wishes if their constituencies will not be able to hear their messages.

The nine members present at the meeting yesterday include Acting Premier Sauni Togatule, Minister Mona Ainuu, Common Roll member O’love Jacobsen, member for Toi, Dion Taufitu, member for Vaiea Talaititama Talaiti, member for Makefu Tofua Puletama, member for Avatele Pita Vakanofiti, member for Hakupu Ritchie Mautama and member for Mutalau Maka Ioane. 

Premier Dalton Tagelagi is expected back on the island tomorrow having been at the Biodiversity Convention meeting in Montreal, Canada. He has previously indicated to BCN News his preference to hold early elections in the first quarter of the new year.

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