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SODELPA Split Over Walkout

SODELPA Split Over Walkout
Opposition Members (from left) Viliame Gavoka, Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, Salote Radrodro, Mere Samisoni and Mikaele Laewere as they walk-out during the session of Parliament on August 31,2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.
September 01
10:51 2018

A significant number of SODELPA MPs opposed a walkout during their caucus meeting before Parliament met to decide on their nominee for President yesterday.

They wanted to go through the democratic process and nominate Ratu Ilisoni Vuidreketi.

Ratu Ilisoni, now a director of Rewa Provincial Holding Company Limited, is a former CEO of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation and a former Fiji Trade Commissioner to the USA and Canada.

He comes from the chiefly house of Burebasaga.

But the SODELPA MPs who backed him were outvoted in caucus by a slim majority.

The walkout happened just before Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama proposed Major-General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote’s reappointment.

Because there was no other nominee there was no vote and his reappointment was passed.

The three National Federation Party MPs did not walk out.

It is understood their leader, Biman Prasad, had earlier had a meeting with Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and the issue of a walkout was discussed.

Neither Ro Teimumu nor Mr Prasad could be reached to comment.

Mr Bainimarama said the walkout was disrespectful to the President.

“We couldn’t figure out why they walked out. I don’t know whether it was to do with the Great Council of Chiefs coming back,” he said.

“I think they should have a life, get on with life. I don’t know what their voters are going to say, they keep walking out of Parliament and it looks like at every Parliament sitting they will be walking out.”

He said the President had done a wonderful job.

Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the walkout was a silly thing to do. 

He said the Opposition members had a couple of arguments and one of them was they could not appoint anybody before their term expired.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added that if they had checked they would have found out that the current President was selected by Parliament to become the President of Fiji on October 12, 2015, one month before the former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau’s term expired.

He said there was no literal interpretation and meaning to what the SODELPA parliamentarians did.

“The writ of election can be issued at any time. If the writ of election is issued and then Parliament is dissolved then obviously we cannot get Parliament to come back in because Parliament is no more, so this makes practical sense to ensure that we have the appointment or the reappointment carried out and a President is already there.

“You don’t actually have a gap in the office, you don’t for example say His Excellency’s term is expiring on November 11, 2018, and then we get together on November 11 then appoint someone, it’s very silly.”

He said it was such a pity because it was the appointment and reappointment of the Head of State.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said it could have been done with a lot more decorum and a lot more understanding of the law.

Ro Teimumu said their major concern was the process by which the appointment was done. 

Mr Prasad said he agreed with the reappointment of Major-General (Ret’d) Konrote.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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