Rift Between NFP, SODELPA Widens
Fallout from PAC kerfuffle over Biman Prasad’s exit reopens old wounds in parties’ fragile relations
Aschism between SODELPA and the National Federation Party has widened over the Public Accounts Committee row. It came out into the open on Thursday when National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad surprised SODELPA Member of Parliament Aseri Radrodro in a press conference in Suva. After criticising Government about his removal, Mr Prasad turned to Mr Radrodro and asked him to clarify a statement made by the Attorney-General, Aiyaz SayedKhaiyum. Mr Prasad claimed Mr SayedKhaiyum said Mr Radrodro was unhappy with him as PAC chairman and disappointed in the way he conducted meetings. He also claimed that the A-G had alleged Mr Prasad had politicised issues. Mr Radrodro declined to comment. He said he would wait for the party’s decision to decide his future as a PAC member.
It is understood that Mr Radrodro was unhappy because he was there on a directive from Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa to support Mr Prasad. He was totally unprepared and was caught by surprise by Mr Prasad’s question. His close SODELPA associates said they took exception to Mr Prasad’s efforts to try and justify his position by publicly putting Mr Radrodro on the spot. They said Mr Prasad should accept the consequences of his actions and stop blaming Mr Radrodro and others. It is understood that Mr Radrodro had expressed his concerns in a parliamentary business meeting about how PAC was doing. For several months there had been no meeting. Many in the SODELPA parliamentary caucus had wanted Mr Radrodro to become the PAC chair. They said he was the logical choice because he was a chartered accountant and had been a Government auditor. They were shocked when Ro Teimumu approached Mr Prasad, an economist, to chair PAC. It created a rift in the party and Ro Teimumu had to front up to the caucus to ask for their forgiveness for failing to consult them. Many SODELPA MPs were also not amused that the three NFP MPs, Mr Prasad, Roko Tupou Draunidalo and Prem Singh had been allocated seats in the front bench. They argued that the NFP had refused to go into coalition before the 2014 General Elections and only joined SODELPA for political convenience. It was the Fiji Labour Party that genuinely wanted to go with SODELPA but it did not win any seat’s. SODELPA MPs have also not forgotten that when they boycotted a special parliamentary sitting addressed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2014, the NFP MPs attended. When PAC controversies broke out because of Mr Prasad’s public utterances in the media about issues it was discussing, it was inevitable that something would happen. Sensing that a change in the chair was inevitable SODELPA president and suspended MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu had recommended that Mr Radrodro should step in. But Mr Radrodro, is understood to have respected and honoured the directive of Ro Teimumu to support Mr Prasad. Now he awaits her decision whether he should continue as PAC member. If he does another SODELPA MP will have to be selected to replace Mr Prasad. The PAC row has now created a wide gulf between the two parties. Ro Teimumu is now the only remaining link between them.
Many SODELPA MPs were also not amused that the three NFP MPs, Mr Prasad, Roko Tupou Draunidalo and Prem Singh had been allocated seats in the front bench. They argued that the NFP had refused to go into coalition before the 2014 General Elections and only joined SODELPA for political convenience.
Opposition Leader and SODELPA MP Ro Teimumu Kepa
SODELPA MP Aseri Radrodro.
NFP MP Tupou Draunidalo.
NFP Party Leader and MP Biman Prasad