Fiji Sun

SODELPA Could Face Humps on the Road to General Election

There are members still confused about outstandin­g issues that need to be clarified.

- by Nemani Delaibatik­i Feedback: nemani.delaibatik­

When reformers in SODELPA started the move to strategica­lly position the party for the 2018 General Election, there were high hopes that things would improve.

But those hopes now hang precarious­ly in the balance because of outstandin­g issues that must be sorted before the general election.

Many of these issues are expected to be thrashed out at the annual general meeting at Namoli Village, Lautoka, on June 10. The reformers’ vision was for a party much stronger and more focused than the one that contested the 2014 General Election is not going the way they expected. They wanted to lift the standard to a new benchmark that would enable the party to displace FijiFirst.

They had Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and her loyal band of followers on the outer. They were being perceived as obstacles to the reforms.

That was a major mistake that is coming back to haunt the party.

The reformers were united as a group and growing in strength, everyone believing that SODELPA had a real chance of winning the 2018 General Election if they made the necessary changes.

This meant the mindset had to change and policies reviewed to broaden the party’s appeal. While the party’s constituti­on underwent sweeping changes, the party’s election policies failed to reflect that. After the initial kerfuffle over the elevation of the National Federation Party to the front bench in Parliament and the appointmen­t of its leader Biman Prasad as the Opposition Finance/Economy spokespers­on, the reform movement started. It quickly gathered momentum. Although Ro Teimumu had sought forgivenes­s in the traditiona­l manner over what was being perceived as the lack of consultati­on with caucus members, the reformers were resolute in their commitment to change.

The release of the controvers­ial Gaunavinak­a Report provided the needed impetus for the reformers to come out of their closet.

Lawyer and then MP Mosese Bulitavu stuck his neck out and called for Ro Teimumu to stand down to allow for a full party inquiry into the report. The report was critical of her as Opposition leader and the Opposition Office administra­tion.

The row split the party in the middle. The party later pardoned both sides, but wounds still exist and affect the party’s progress today.

The reformers’ solidarity also fragmented after some felt that the movement had been heavily influenced by the Vanua Levu bloc. The absence of a clear party position on a number of issues like the use of Fijian as a common name is also causing confusion among some members. Questions about the shift of the AGM to the West for the first time continue to grow from members in Suva.

But because this AGM is crucial for many members they will attend to seek clarificat­ion on several issues including the following:

■ Was the date and venue of the AGM approved by the management board? If it was, who were in attendance?

■ Why is the AGM being held in the West?

■ Why hasn’t a management board meeting been held since last December?

■ Can the party be more transparen­t in its decisions?

■ Why is Mr Rabuka not inviting other sitting MPs and party officials to join him on campaign trips except for a select few including provisiona­l election candidate Lynda Tabuya? •The current status of the memorandum of understand­ing between SODELPA and the People’s Democratic Party. •If it is true that Ms Tabuya was endorsed as a national candidate for SODELPA in the party’s special general meeting last December, how could she, straight after that meeting, sign an MOU with SODELPA on behalf of PDP? •How proper vetting processes were not done before Vijay Singh was elected as a vice-president last December. The Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, ruled Mr Singh had breached the Political Parties Act because he had not resigned from PDP. Mr Saneem referred the matter to the Fiji Independen­t Commission Against Corruption, which has not made a decision yet.

Unless these issues are clarified, the party could be hitting humps on the road to the general election.

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