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As the in­ter­nal bat­tle es­ca­lates to take con­trol of the So­cial Demo­cratic and Lib­eral Party (SODELPA) con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments will be the fo­cus.

It ap­pears that time has run out to com­ply with the pro­vi­sions of the party con­sti­tu­tion to hold it next month. The main re­quire­ment is that the party calls for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est from its con­stituent bod­ies four months be­fore the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing.

If that no­tice goes out next month then the AGM can be held in Septem­ber or even Oc­to­ber.

But the man­age­ment board, the gov­ern­ing body of the party, must meet first to au­tho­rise it, the date and the venue. Later it will set the agenda based on sub­mis­sions by con­stituency coun­cils.

The ve­hi­cle that is used to change the rule is con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. June can be changed to Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber.

The re­quire­ments can also be waived to hold the AGM next month by those who want to push for an early res­o­lu­tion on the pre­text to unite the party.

Be­cause of COVID-19 re­stric­tions, mass gath­er­ing is banned. The early meet­ing could work against the in­ter­ests of those with big sup­port be­cause of the num­ber limit.

The Septem­ber or Oc­to­ber time­line is more ap­pro­pri­ate and prac­ti­ca­ble be­cause it gives all groups a fair go.

Care­taker party leader Si­tiveni

Rabuka is act­ing as the power bro­ker at this time. He is try­ing to get two sides in a deep­en­ing split to come to­gether as soon as pos­si­ble. It would be in his in­ter­ests as a can­di­date for the next party leader role.

This is even though the party leader ap­point­ment pro­cess looks like shift­ing to next year.

A court judg­ment rul­ing the elec­tion of of­fice bear­ers at the AGM in Savusavu in June last year null and void means that all de­ci­sions by of­fi­cers af­ter that were in­valid – in­clud­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment call­ing for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est on the new party leader role.

That will have to be re-ad­ver­tised and it could be next year be­fore the new party leader is con­firmed.

In the mean­time, Mr Rabuka can con­tinue as the care­taker leader. He has made it pub­lic that he wants to con­tinue as party leader.

This is a de­par­ture from the con­ven­tion started in 2016 with for­mer party leader Ro Tei­mumu Kepa.

She was forced to re­sign by a con­sti­tu­tional change af­ter los­ing the 2014 elec­tion.

She was of the un­der­stand­ing that she could not seek re-elec­tion. She lost an elec­tion and that was it. The party con­sti­tu­tion is silent on the re­elec­tion.

Mr Rabuka has not con­cealed his am­bi­tion to be party leader again even though he lost the 2018 elec­tion. If he suc­ceeds and SODELPA wins the elec­tion, he could be Prime Min­is­ter again.

But his op­po­nents feel there should be a new leader.

He should do the hon­ourable thing like Ro Tei­mumu did and give way to a new leader, they feel.

While he is step­ping up to help the party pro­cesses go­ing to or­gan­ise the AGM, it would be a step­ping stone to achiev­ing his dream.

The man­age­ment board has the fi­nal say even af­ter the se­lec­tion panel has made its rec­om­men­da­tion.

Only a con­sti­tu­tional change will stop him con­test­ing the post.

That can­not be ruled out given the flu­id­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in the light of the noise com­ing from party sup­port­ers in the United States and Aus­tralia.

Care­taker SODELPA leader Si­tiveni Rabuka.

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