NEW LEAD­ER­SHIP TO FACE ACID TEST WHEN MPS RE­TURN TO PAR­LIA­MENT AF­TER LIFT­ING OF SUS­PEN­SION

OLD HANDS IN THE PAR­LIA­MEN­TARY CAUCUS WHO BE­LONG TO THE CON­SER­VA­TIVE RIGHT WING CAN MAKE LIFE DIF­FI­CULT FOR THE NEW­COM­ERS The real test for the new party lead­er­ship is whether it has the po­lit­i­cal will and courage to en­force gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples to rein

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The mod­er­ates can­not sit on their lau­rels af­ter win­ning round one of the in­ter­nal bat­tle for power in sus­pended SODELPA.

While the con­ser­va­tive right wingers may have lost their con­trol of the ad­min­is­tra­tion they could still test the mod­er­ates by re­fus­ing to fol­low party di­rec­tives in the par­lia­men­tary caucus.

They know they have the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers of SODELPA (in sus­pen­sion) who backed them in the 2018 Gen­eral Elec­tion A pre­lim­i­nary as­sess­ment of their sup­port, and this could change, shows they have the con­trol of the caucus .

They amassed 118,334 votes in the last elec­tion.

Thir­teen of the 21 sus­pended MPs are cur­rently aligned to this group headed by the Tui Cakau, Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu.

They are care­taker party leader and Op­po­si­tion leader Si­tiveni Rabuka (77,040), Mos­ese Buli­tavu (5342), Niko Nawaikula (5187), Dr Ratu Ato­nio Lal­a­bal­avu (5016), Pe­celi Vosani­bola (3730), Jesé Saukuru (3299), Simione Rasova (3286), Ratu Su­liano Matan­i­to­bua (3279), Ro Filipe Tui­sawau (2835), Inosi Kuridrani (2724), Salote Radro­dro (2235), Adi Li­tia Qion­i­bar­avi (2195), Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu (2165).

Six are iden­ti­fied with the mod­er­ates who ac­count for 27,320 votes. They are Op­po­si­tion Whip Lynda

Tabuya (8795), Ro Tei­mumu Kepa (6036), Anare Jale (4287), Vil­iame Ga­voka (3536), Mikaele Leawere (2354), Aseri Radro­dro (2312).

It is not clear which group the two re­main­ing sus­pended MPs, Mi­tieli Bu­lanauca (3031) and Te­vita Navurelevu (2010) sup­port.

Whether the Ratu Naiqama group re­tains the same sup­port will be found out in the buildup to the an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Oc­to­ber. But for the time be­ing they can use these sta­tis­tics to their ad­van­tage in caucus at least. They can claim they have real sup­port. The mod­er­ates can al­ways mount a lead­er­ship chal­lenge if they feel they have enough sup­port.

Their tar­get is to knock Mr Rabuka off the perch. That will be a tough call.

The real test for the new party lead­er­ship is whether it has the po­lit­i­cal will and courage to en­force gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples to rein in caucus if it does not toe the line. A prece­dent was set in the af­ter­math of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone

A mo­tion was brought by the Gov­ern­ment side in Par­lia­ment to in­crease par­lia­men­tary sit­ting al­lowance.

On the morn­ing of the vote, prior to en­ter­ing the de­bat­ing cham­ber, the caucus held a eleventh hour meet­ing to dis­cuss a di­rec­tive from the then party pres­i­dent and sus­pended MP Ratu Naiqama.

He called on his col­leagues to op­pose the mo­tion. He ex­plained that it was in­sen­si­tive to sup­port an al­lowance in­crease when peo­ple were still suf­fer­ing from the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of the cy­clone. He said some stu­dents were at­tend­ing classes in tents and some peo­ple were still liv­ing in tents.

He said it was morally wrong to ac­cept an in­crease. Po­lit­i­cally the party would ben­e­fit. It was an ex­cel­lent point.

But the caucus re­jected his di­rec­tive and backed the mo­tion on the grounds that MPs were un­able to ful­fill their con­stituency obli­ga­tions be­cause of a lack of fi­nance. Did the party hold the caucus ac­count­able for its de­fi­ance? Of course it didn’t be­cause it would desta­bi­lize the party by cre­at­ing in­sta­bil­ity.

Can the sus­pended party new lead­er­ship take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion if some in caucus defy or rebel against new poli­cies and di­rec­tives de­cided by the Man­age­ment Board? That will be the defin­ing mo­ment for the sus­pended party.

It must be seen to be zeal­ously up­hold­ing the good gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples of ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency.

Photo: Ron­ald Ku­mar

Sus­pended SODELPA care­taker leader and Op­po­si­tion leader Si­tiveni Rabuka (left), dur­ing the sus­pended SODELPA man­age­ment meet­ing at Hol­i­day Inn Suva on June 18, 2020.

Ne­mani De­laibatiki

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