Analysis

Nemani Delaibatiki: Why Plan To Review SODELPA’s Membership Of Standing Committees Was Aborted

There was fierce debate over a proposal to review SODELPA’s membership of the Parliamentary Standing Committees and the Whip. As a result the proposal was aborted at about the same
21 Jan 2020 10:05
Nemani Delaibatiki: Why Plan To Review SODELPA’s Membership Of Standing Committees Was Aborted
Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka, Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya and Opposition MP Aseri Radrodro.

There was fierce debate over a proposal to review SODELPA’s membership of the Parliamentary Standing Committees and the Whip.

As a result the proposal was aborted at about the same time last December when the SODELPA court case was being heard in Suva.

The case, before the Civil High Court in Suva, was adjourned to January 30 by Judge, Justice Vishwa Dutt Sharma.

Lawyers from the two sides have been informed that a new date would be set because Justice Sharma had some pressing matters to attend to.

A group led by the party’s Suva Constituency president Watisoni Nata is challenging the party over the annual general meeting at Yaroi, Savusavu, in June on governance and constitutional grounds.

The debate over a discussion paper recommending the proposal and bears the name of Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka was presented in a caucus meeting last November. It seems to have widened the gulf that exists between the party leadership and the general membership.

The purpose of the document, according to official party records, was to review working arrangements within the caucus.

It was intended to “ensure that all members of the caucus are given the opportunity to expose themselves in all areas of governance.”

“It is also important to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of members of the loyal Opposition. Most importantly, to ensure the equitable distribution and responsibilities of all members of caucus.”

Some members found the word loyal offensive and insensitive. It suggested that some members were disloyal to the party.

The caucus had earlier agreed that there was going to be a review after the first parliamentary year following the 2018 General Election.

Necessary adjustments were to be made to “ensure the effective participation of members of caucus in all aspects of parliamentary work.”

The two key working arrangements to be reviewed include:

  • Possible rotation of the role of the Whip and Deputy Whip
  • Members of Parliamentary Standing Committees.

“The appointment of the Whip and Deputy Whip and the nomination of caucus representatives of the various Standing Committees was based on consensus, interest from members, and their respective areas of expertise,” the paper said.

It was proposed that Lynda Tabuya would be stood down as Whip and be replaced by Aseri Radrodro. Mosese Bulitavu would retain his deputy role.

Ms Tabuya to be the alternate member with Mr Radrodro on the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs.

Mr Rabuka to replace Mr Radrodro on the Public Accounts Committee where Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu also sits.

There was heated discussion on this. Some members questioned why Mr Rabuka needed to sit on the committee when he was already earning $130,000 a year as Opposition leader.

It was argued that MPs who only earned $50,000 a year should get the opportunity to be committee members because it would help supplement their income.

Some members took exception to a statement in the discussion paper that members who voluntarily agreed to contribute $10,000 to the operations of the party, must be given priority.

Some members, including those in the senior ranks, said no one should be coerced into paying for the promise of a parliamentary role.

The Proposed Standing Committee Members:

1) Standing Committee on Economic Affairs: Inosi Kuridrani, Ro Filipe Tuisawau. Alternate members- Aseri Radrodro, Lynda Tabuya

2) Standing Committee on Social Affairs: Ro Teimumu Kepa, Ratu Atonio Lalabalavu. Alternate members – Ratu Tevita Niumataiwalu, Salote Radrodro

3) Standing Committee on Natural Resources: Jese Saukuru, Mitieli Bulanauca. Alternate members – Viliame Gavoka, Mikaele Leawere.

4) Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs: Pio Tikoduadua, Adi Litia Qionibaravi. Alternate member- Simione Rasova.

5) Standing Committee on Justice, Law and Human Rights: Niko Nawaikula, Ratu Suliano Matanitobua. Alternate members- Peceli Vosanibola, Mosese Bulitavu

6) Standing Committee on Public Accounts: Sitiveni Rabuka, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu. Alternate member- Anare Jale

Select Committees:

House committee: Salote Radrodro, Pio Tikoduadua (NFP Whip)

Privileges Committee: Sitiveni Rabuka, Mosese Bulitavu. Alternate member- Salote Radrodro

Emoluments Committee: Aseri Radrodro, Mikaele Leawere.

The conclusion of the discussion paper has run into an impasse because of the internal differences.

It says: “It is important that caucus should discuss proposed changes in the spirit of openness, and on the premise, that the interests of the party remain paramount.

“Necessary changes will be made after the second session of Parliament to ensure the implementation of the rotational arrangement already agreed by caucus in the first session. This will also enable members to be exposed to the work of the various Standing Committees. It is also a prerequisite and preparatory for all members to effectively run Government.

“Consensus building is necessary to ensure ownership and the effective and efficient working arrangements of the Leader of the Opposition’s Office.

“The final decision and approval will be at the discretion of the Leader of the Opposition.”

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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