Uneasy calm hangs over em­bat­tled SODELPA

Fiji Sun - - EXPLAINER - Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

Barely less than two weeks af­ter a united front was cob­bled to­gether at SODELPA’s Spe­cial Gen­eral meet­ing an uneasy calm per­vades the party.

The two ri­val fac­tions are strug­gling to build on the del­i­cate progress fos­tered at the SGM.

There were hopes that the Bud­get de­bate would ce­ment an­other build­ing block. But it was ev­i­dent that the

MPs lacked co­he­sion and lead­er­ship.

There was lit­tle co-or­di­na­tion and MPs went on dif­fer­ent tan­gents.

Strong di­vi­sion

De­spite their claims, their lack­lus­tre per­for­mance in­di­cated some­thing was not quite right.

Maybe their heart was not in the right place be­cause of the dif­fer­ences that ex­ist be­tween the mod­er­ates now led by Bau Chief Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and the con­ser­va­tive right wing led by Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu. Some mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly from the con­ser­va­tive right wing, wel­comed the elec­tion of chiefs to the party hier­ar­chy. They be­lieve it will strengthen party unity. But oth­ers are not quite so sure. They think it gives am­mu­ni­tion to the right wingers to advance their con­ser­va­tive ide­olo­gies at a time when the pre­dom­i­nantly iTaukei party is mov­ing to­wards broad­en­ing its base to at­tract other races.

Two of the vice pres­i­dents are chiefs, the Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama, who is the para­mount chief of Cakau­drove and the To­vata Con­fed­er­acy, and Ro Tei­mumu Kepa, Roko Tui Dreketi, para­mount chief of Rewa and Bure­basaga Con­fed­er­acy. The chiefs can have both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive im­pact on the party.

The pos­i­tive is they de­fused what could have been an ex­plo­sive sit­u­a­tion at the SGM. The fac­tions were headed for a heated show­down over the elec­tion of of­fi­cers. But it fiz­zled out af­ter the chiefs were elected un­op­posed.

Prior to that there were shout­ing matches be­tween some of the right wingers and gen­eral sec­re­tary Emele Duitu­turaga over pro­ce­dural is­sues.

One that will be ar­gued over the com­ing months as a buildup to the An­nual Gen­eral Assem­bly in Novem­ber is the role of the pre­sid­ing au­thor­ity and the gen­eral sec­re­tary.

More ris­ing is­sues

At the Man­age­ment Board meet­ing on July 24, it was de­cided through some form of con­sen­sus that Ratu Naiqama, with the sup­port of Ratu Epenisa, would chair the SGM the fol­low­ing day. Ms Duitu­turaga should have in­ter­vened and ruled that it was un­con­sti­tu­tional and the proper pro­cesses should be fol­lowed through a show of hands or the bal­lot box.

This was done the fol­low­ing day af­ter le­gal ad­vice and she an­nounced it at the SGM. In the ab­sence of a prop­erly elected chair she as­sumed con­trol of the meet­ing and called for the elec­tion of pres­i­dent. Ratu Epenisa was elected and took over as chair.

The party con­sti­tu­tion does not spell out what hap­pens if a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to the one in ques­tion arises.

All it says is that the pres­i­dent pre­sides in a SGM, Man­age­ment Board and Gen­eral Assem­bly. Ms Duitu­turaga can ex­pect more ques­tions com­ing her way. The other con­tentious is­sue is the party leader se­lec­tion.

If the party strictly com­plies with its con­sti­tu­tion then it will find a new leader to re­place Si­tiveni Rabuka be­cause the party lost the 2018 elec­tion. This will be con­sis­tent with its ap­pli­ca­tion against Ro Tei­mumu af­ter she lost the 2014 elec­tion.

The sit­u­a­tion can only change if an amend­ment is made to the con­sti­tu­tion to al­low Mr Rabuka to re­con­test the po­si­tion.

It’s up to the mod­er­ates who ap­pear to have an up­per hand in the party to make this de­ci­sion. They are ex­pected to ful­fill their mis­sion to en­sure that party com­plies with good gov­er­nance prin­ci­ples.

Ne­mani De­laibatiki

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