Time For 2 To Go

Mick Beddoes (SODELPA) and Mahendra Chaudhry (Fiji Labour Party) badly misjudged the campaign. It’s clearly time for them to step aside and make room for the new people and ways
21 Sep 2014 09:46

Mick Beddoes (SODELPA) and Mahendra Chaudhry (Fiji Labour Party) badly misjudged the campaign. It’s clearly time for them to step aside and make room for the new people and ways of Fijian politics.

Mick Beddoes

Mr Beddoes as a master propagandist for SODELPA failed miserably. The spokesman of the so-called United Front for Democratic Fiji (SODELPA, Fiji Labour Party, National Federation Party and People’s Democratic Party) made a lot of noise. But his wrong analysis, calculations and reading of what’s happening on the ground did not help SODELPA’s chances.

He supplied SODELPA officials with reports that sounded good to their ears but in reality were hollow in their content. He was even successful in convincing some party faithful that the Fiji Sun was the villain and they should boycott it.

This even though SODELPA – along with all other parties – was being given free space in the biggest paper of the week to tell voters their views. The party went along with Mr Beddoes and gave up the free space.

The boycott did not last long. But the damage to SODELPA had been done. Mr Beddoes and those within who supported him failed to realise that when they shut the door to the Fiji Sun, they were in fact shutting the door to the paper’s many readers. SODELPA was the loser, not the Fiji Sun.

When you are in a position of strength or power you can sometimes get away with being arrogant. SODELPA was never in that position because of the narrow base of its platform.

It did not have the broad appeal that FijiFirst had because of SODELPA’s discriminatory pro-indigenous policies. Consequently it needed every vote it could lay its hands on and that meant getting maximum exposure in the media. The ban against the Fiji Sun – which had the best coverage of the political campaign – did not make political sense.

Mr Beddoes similarly attacked the Razor Research/Fiji Sun weekly opinion poll which put SODELPA way behind leader FijiFirst. Instead he gave his own spin and told SODELPA all was well.

If he had read the Alliance Party manual in the 1987 general election, he would have changed course.The late Dr Ahmed Ali, political adviser to the then Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, did exactly what Mr Beddoes just did in this election.

Dr Ali used to dispute the reporting of the political situation in the old Fiji Sun. He chose to ignore the groundswell of discontent in the labour movement. The Alliance Government lost the election to Dr Timoci Bavadra’s Coalition of the Fiji Labour Party and National Federation Party. The election result incidentally showed how accurate the Razor Research/Fiji Sun poll was.

Mr Beddoes’ last throw of the dice, the alleged irregularities in the electoral process, is fast looking like it’s another shambles.

Instead of doing a normal and simple factual check, they ran to the news media to grandstand before even lodging a complaint with the Electoral Commission. The claims are now being increasingly discredited as they are put under scrutiny.

For example, photos Mr Beddoes showed claiming to be a Tappoo vehicle with ballot papers in it turned out to be a vehicle leased by the Elections Office and the papers were actually short term contracts for people working on polling day.

Mr Beddoes, who did not win enough votes to secure a seat, should surely realise his time in politics is over. The old electoral system which enabled him to get into Parliament and grandstand with this few votes is dead and buried. True democracy is alive.

He should enjoy time in his beloved Sabeto. Even those in the Australian and New Zealand media who gave him and his views so much disproportionate air time must now even see how wrong they were, and how out of touch he was.

Mahendra Chaudhry

The complete wipeout of the Fiji Labour Party in the elections is catastrophic. This is the first time it has happened in the proud history of this party.  The knives are out and the blame game has already begun. One of the many failed Labour candidates, Dr Rohit Kishore, has blamed party leader Mahendra Chaudhry for the crisis. He believes that Mr Chaudhry, who could not stand because of his conviction, should have stepped down as leader going into the polls.

Mr Chaudhry is, of course, not new to controversies.

He is a political and union fighter and relishes the contest.

But for party followers, the main issue now is the leadership. The general election outcome sends out a clear message that Mr Chaudhry’s time is surely over.

It is a convention in many democracies that when the party performs poorly in an election the leader steps down to allow a new leader and new ideas into the party.

Unless this is done as soon as possible, it would be difficult to rebuild the Labour Party.

The right thing for Mr Chaudhry to do is to relinquish the leadership now without a bitter fight which will damage the party even further. Mr Chaudhry – unlike Mr Beddoes – has actually succeeded at the highest levels in the past. He has accomplishments to be proud of.

But like Mr Beddoes he should realise his time is now over. It’s time for him to step aside and spend much deserved time with his family. And relax.



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