Con­fu­sion In SODELPA Ranks Over Al­lowance Vote

Fiji Sun - - Fiji Today - Rosi Do­viver­ata Edited by Maraia Vula Feed­back: rosi.do­viver­ata@fi­jisun.com.fj

There was con­fu­sion yes­ter­day over SODELPA’s po­si­tion on the al­lowance hike. Eleven out of 14 MPs, tak­ing their cue from party leader Si­tiveni Rabuka, voted in favour of the hike in Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day.

In do­ing so, they de­fied a di­rec­tive from party pres­i­dent, Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu. The di­rec­tive was in a let­ter de­liv­ered to each of them on the morn­ing be­fore the vote. Now, they have to front up to the party and ex­plain why they ig­nored Ratu Naiqama’s or­der. The let­ter ad­vised MPs not to sup­port the mo­tion. Ratu Naiqama, who is cur­rently sus­pended from Par­lia­ment said: “a vote in sup­port of in­creases in al­lowances at a time when those af­fected by the rav­ages of TC Win­ston are still liv­ing in tents, school chil­dren are still at­tend­ing schools in makeshift leak­ing class­rooms, the con­tin­u­ing rel­a­tive low wage rates across the board as well as the in­creas­ing cost of liv­ing, is in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

“It is quite clear that our party sup­port­ers place em­pha­sis on trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity and I again seek your in­dul­gence in re­fram­ing how you ad­dress this is­sue in to­mor­row’s Par­lia­men­tary sit­ting. You have made known your views in pub­lic, how­ever, there is also a greater need to con­sider the side ef­fects of the process adopted in the rec­om­mended in­crease in al­lowance which was made by Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment them­selves in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of our Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment. “Our party sup­port­ers in­clud­ing over­seas branches have clearly stated their views against the in­crease in emol­u­ments.” Those from SODELPA who sup­ported the mo­tion to in­crease MPs’ al­lowances in­cluded: Op­po­si­tion leader Ro Tei­mumu Kepa, Niko Nawaikula, Vil­iame Ga­voka, Semesa Kar­avaki, Ratu Su­liano Matan­i­to­bua, Mikaele Leawere, Ratu Sela Nanovo, Kilivil­iame Kili­raki, Ratu Isoa Tikoca, Aseri Radro­dro and Jiosefa Du­lakiver­ata. Anare Vadei was not in Par­lia­ment on Thurs­day. Both Mos­ese Buli­tavo and Salote Radro­dro were in Par­lia­ment be­fore the vot­ing but were out­side the House when votes were cast. They were recorded on the Par­lia­ment vot­ing re­sult tally as ‘Not Voted.’ SODELPA Gen­eral-Sec­re­tary Adi Litia Qion­i­bar­avi main­tained that there is no divi­sion or mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion within the party. She said the party sup­ported the re­view of al­lowances but to be done by an in­de­pen­dent com­mit­tee.

She in­sisted that proper pro­cesses were fol­lowed. “The Party Pres­i­dent un­der the Party’s Con­sti­tu­tion has the over­sight of all Party mat­ters in­clud­ing strate­gic gov­er­nance and es­pe­cially when the Man­age­ment Board is un­able to meet.” In this case, the 30 plus man­age­ment board were un­able to meet as they are scat­tered across the coun­try.

It was also quite clear yes­ter­day that vice-pres­i­dent Anare Jale was not con­sulted or aware of the di­rec­tive. The other vice-pres­i­dent, Mr Kili­raki sup­ported the mo­tion. It is un­der­stood the 11 MPs who sup­ported the in­crease did so for a num­ber of rea­sons:

10 per cent of their pay goes to re­pay­ing the party con­tri­bu­tion to­wards the TC Win­ston PM’s Re­lief Fund – that’s about $500 a month.

An­other $300 monthly con­tri­bu­tion is di­rected to­wards the party cof­fers.

This does not in­clude the tra­di­tional obli­ga­tions they have been en­cour­aged to ful­fill by party leader, Si­tiveni Rabuka. This was ev­i­dent when the party pre­sented its i re­guregu at the fu­neral of the late Na Kalevu, Ratu Ratu Kini­joji Vo­sailagi and in Au­gust for the late Tui Nadi, Ratu Sailosi Dawai. MPs are un­der­stood to be fac­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sures to meet these obli­ga­tions and carry out party work.

In ad­di­tion, un­der the new elec­toral sys­tem of an open con­stituency, the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans be­come a dis­ad­van­taged to those on the lower salary scale as it lim­its their abil­ity to travel the breadth of Fiji. This was noted in the SODELPA sub­mis­sion to the Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Emol­u­ments.

Adi Litia said: “All po­lit­i­cal par­ties have con­sti­tu­tions and the SODELPA Con­sti­tu­tion states that when the ac­tion taken by Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment dif­fers from the di­rec­tive of the party, mem­bers will be asked to ex­plain why they have taken such ac­tions.” More in­ter­est­ing times for SODELPA, it seems.

A vote in sup­port of in­creases in al­lowances at a time when those af­fected by the rav­ages of TC Win­ston are still liv­ing in tents, school chil­dren are still at­tend­ing schools in makeshift leak­ing class­rooms, the con­tin­u­ing rel­a­tive low wage rates across the board as well as the in­creas­ing cost of liv­ing, is in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu SODELPA pres­i­dent

Photo: Ron­ald Ku­mar

Op­po­si­tion MP Mos­ese Buli­tavu.

Photo: Ron­ald Ku­mar

Op­po­si­tion MP Salote Radro­dro.

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