Behind Closed Doors
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.
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
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.
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.
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.