Be­hind Closed Doors

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The sus­pended So­cial Demo­cratic Lib­eral Party (SODELPA) man­age­ment board meet­ing took place yesterday, but what many do not know is the fire­works which went off dur­ing heated ex­changes be­hind closed doors. Mem­bers from 28 con­stituen­cies took their place on the man­age­ment board where Vi­jay Singh, who had joined the party from the now de­funct Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party took charge as act­ing pres­i­dent via Zoom.

Mat­ters Dis­cussed: Cau­cus: On this, Mr Singh re­minded all that given that the party was sus­pended, there was no cau­cus mean­ing the party’s can­di­dates who have seats in Par­lia­ment had no say in the meet­ing. Here, MP Si­tiveni Rabuka said the par­lia­men­tary cau­cus needed to be reap­pointed. What was his mo­ti­va­tion? While his fac­tion were out­num­bered on the man­age­ment board, they have more sup­port in cau­cus. Jese Saukuru, Ro Filipe Tui­sawau and Salote Radro­dro are the three cau­cus reps, but there is an in­di­ca­tion that they would not be hold­ing that po­si­tion for much longer.

Youth pres­i­dent of the sus­pended party Jope Koroisavou moved that a new party con­sti­tu­tion be sub­mit­ted to the Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions. This was sec­onded by MP Vil­iame Ga­voka.

Act­ing Pres­i­dent:

Mr Koroisavou moved that Mr Singh be reap­pointed as act­ing pres­i­dent. This was sec­onded by the Naitasiri con­stituency.

The Western con­stituen­cies moved the mo­tion that Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu be­come the act­ing pres­i­dent but this was strongly op­posed by the Naitasiri side.

How other po­si­tions were voted on:

Apart from the hu­mil­i­at­ing push­back against his nom­i­na­tion as act­ing pres­i­dent, Ratu Naiqama’s name was once again floated. This time, for the vice-pres­i­dent po­si­tion.

The nom­i­nees were:

Naitasiri con­stituency pushed for : Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and Ratu Jone Le­suma while the Western con­stituen­cies moved for Ratu Naiqama and Eroni Le­waqai, how­ever they with­drew their mo­tion to nom­i­nate only Ratu Naiqama.

Fol­low­ing this, the Board took a tea break.

Af­ter the break, Cakau­drove West nom­i­nated Ratu Naiqama which was sec­onded by Ba West. Naitasiri South sup­ported the mo­tion to elect Ratu Epenisa and Ratu Jone and also said that Adi Litia Qion­i­bar­avi was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Fiji In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion

against Cor­rup­tion.

To this, Adi Litia re­torted that there was no in­ves­ti­ga­tion against her and that peo­ple were re­ly­ing on hearsay only.

Af­ter this ex­change, Mr Rabuka said over the tea break he felt that there was no con­sen­sus.

Mr Singh de­cided that the nom­i­na­tions were done and this went to a se­cret vote. Adi Litia sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the dis­tri­bu­tion of votes on the two bal­lot pa­pers. The clar­i­fi­ca­tion to her was pro­vided by lawyer Tanya Waqanika. Not con­tent with the ex­pla­na­tion, Adi Litia fur­ther said there was no clear ex­pla­na­tion. De­spite her out­burst, Naitasiri South moved the mo­tion that the elected can­di­dates be en­dorsed.

Heated ar­gu­ment started af­ter both newly elected vice-pres­i­dents made their ad­dresses to the man­age­ment board. The heated ex­change was be­tween MP Aseri Radro­dro and Waid­ina pres­i­dent Sakaraia Nakatasavu af­ter Mr Radro­dro ac­cused the other party of seek­ing sup­porter’ sig­na­tures in a pe­ti­tion he was tak­ing around in Naitasiri last month.

Af­ter the heated ex­change calmed down, Adi Litia made one more at­tempt to hold some clout within the sus­pended party. She pro­posed that Pati­lai Waqabaca con­tin­ues as trea­surer un­til the next an­nual gen­eral meet­ing.

To this, MP Anare Jale said the act­ing trea­surer should be ‘a ser­vant to the Party’ and that their con­sti­tu­tion was silent on whether a trea­surer needed to be a qual­i­fied ac­coun­tant. He pro­posed former Pa­cific Is­land Pri­vate Sec­tor Or­gan­i­sa­tion (PIPSO) chief ex­ec­u­tive Ilisoni Vuidreketi for the post of act­ing trea­surer which was sec­ond by Naitasiri South.

Adi Litia’s nom­i­nee was de­feated in a show of hands vot­ing and Mr Vuidreketi re­ceived 23 out of 27 votes.

Act­ing Gen­eral Sec­re­tary:

The best seemed to have been saved for the last- the con­tentious gen­eral sec­re­tary po­si­tion. And as ex­pected, a lot was said across the floor when this de­ci­sion was be­ing made.

Mr Koroisavou pro­posed that Adi Litia be of­fi­cially re­moved as the gen­eral sec­re­tary. This did not go un­chal­lenged and Adi Litia fired shots re­mind­ing those present that she did not choose to hold the po­si­tion and that she had ten­dered in her res­ig­na­tion on 18 June.

As this was go­ing on, the Ksha­triya Hall fac­tion- Ratu Naiqama, Ro Filipe Tui­sawau, Inosi Kuridrani, Simi Rasova and Te­vita Ta­bal­ailai grouped out­side, passed re­marks about how they were now wor­ried about the sus­pended party’s fu­ture and left the meet­ing.

Emele Duitu­turaga was ap­pointed gen­eral sec­re­tary and the meet­ing broke for lunch.

What next?

The Ksha­triya Hall fac­tion no doubt feel that while they may have lost this bat­tle, they can still win the war. How? As soon as the party is no longer sus­pended, the cau­cus too jumps into ac­tion. It is here that Ksha­triya Hall fac­tion thinks they have the num­bers to turn things their way. But will they suc­ceed? Given the de­feat yesterday, there is a slim chance that the Ksha­triya Hall fac­tion will be able to wrig­gle its way into the party’s hi­er­ar­chy af­ter the sus­pen­sion is lifted.

Photo: Ron­ald Ku­mar

Newly elected SODELPA (in sus­pen­sion) gen­eral sec­re­tary Emele Duitu­turaga with an emo­tional Adi Litia Qion­i­bar­avi (right), fol­low­ing their man­age­ment board meet­ing at Hol­i­day Inn, Suva on June 18, 2020. How­ever last night the Regis­trar of Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Mo­hammed Saneem re­jected Ms Duitu­turaga’s ap­point­ment.

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