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