New pres­i­dent Ratu Epenisa a sta­bil­is­ing in­flu­ence in un­easy first meet­ing of the two fac­tions

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Newly elected SODELPA party pres­i­dent Ratu Epenisa Cakobau says he in­tends to fo­cus on unit­ing the party

It looked and sounded good in­side SODELPA’s Spe­cial Gen­eral Meet­ing yes­ter­day al­though it was not quite the same out­side. As an­gry sup­port­ers protested about their lock­out out­side the gates of Novo­tel Lami Bay Re­sort, del­e­gates danced to a funky tune to cel­e­brate the suc­cess­ful elec­tion of new pres­i­dent, Bau Chief Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and Vice-Pres­i­dents Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu, Ro Tei­mumu Kepa and George Shiu Raj.

The meet­ing was closed to the me­dia but pro­ceed­ings were leaked out. Ten­sion was high be­tween the two op­pos­ing sides meet­ing to­gether for the first time.

It was only de­fused af­ter the three high chiefs of Fiji were elected un­op­posed. Mr Shiu Raj was the only one who had to con­test his seat and beat Ratu Jone Le­suma. Suva lawyer Tanya Waqanika was also nom­i­nated but with­drew be­cause her Chief Ro Tei­mumu, the Roko Tui Dreketi, para­mount chief of Rewa and Bure­basaga Con­fed­er­acy, was also nom­i­nated.

A Ratu Vakalal­abure from Vanua Levu was also nom­i­nated but he with­drew to give way to his chief Ratu Naiqama, the Tui Cakau, para­mount chief of Cakau­drove and the To­vata Con­fed­er­acy.

If that had not hap­pened the meet­ing could have turned ugly be­cause the ri­val groups were pre­pared for bat­tle for po­si­tions and gen­eral sec­re­tary Emele Duitu­tuga was glad it turned out the way it did.

She did her best to try to steer the meet­ing away from the old prac­tices and re­ferred to the party con­sti­tu­tion. More than once she had to con­sult the le­gal ex­perts to en­sure they were strictly fol­low­ing the con­sti­tu­tion.

She ruled that Fri­day’s Man­age­ment Board’s de­ci­sion to ap­point Ratu Naiqama to chair the SGM was un­con­sti­tu­tional and in­valid. That was why the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent was done first so that he or she could chair the meet­ing.

The elec­tion of the Vice Pres­i­dents was a sub­ject of in­tense dis­cus­sions over the pro­cesses. When they fi­nally got sorted, only one po­si­tion was con­tested and Mr Shiu Raj won it. The party is not out of the woods yet. It was ev­i­dent yes­ter­day that emo­tions were still run­ning high. The com­ing months will be cru­cial build­ing up to the ap­point­ment of the party leader in Novem­ber.

Ratu Naiqama’s con­ser­va­tive right wing wants Care­taker party leader and Op­po­si­tion leader Si­tiveni Rabuka to lead the party into the 2022 elec­tion. The mod­er­ates may not nec­es­sar­ily agree with it.

ALSO READ Chiefs back in full force in SODELPA > P10


From left: Op­po­si­tion whip Lynda Tabuya and the newly-elected SODELPA party pres­i­dent Ratu Epenisa Cakobau with party sup­port­ers at the Spe­cial Gen­eral Meet­ing at the Novo­tel Con­ven­tion Cen­tre on July 25, 2020. Inoke Rabonu

Photo: Inoke Rabonu

SODELPA Care­taker party leader Si­tiveni Rabuka (sec­ond from left) and newly elected party pres­i­dent Ratu Epenisa Cakobau (fourth from left), with SODELPA youth mem­bers at the Novo­tel Con­ven­tion Cen­tre on July 25, 2020.

Ne­mani De­laibatiki

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