Wake Up And Smell The Realities

SODELPA MPs must wake up and smell the realties. SODELPA must stop trying to make excuses for its heavy election defeat. It should accept that it was rejected by many
11 Oct 2014 09:23
Wake Up And Smell The Realities

SODELPA MPs must wake up and smell the realties. SODELPA must stop trying to make excuses for its heavy election defeat. It should accept that it was rejected by many in elections rated fair and credible and move on.

In a letter dated October 7, 2014, sent to the President,Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, SODELPA  MPs said: “Our collective decision to participate in the 2014 elections and take our seats in the new parliament is in keeping with our desire to return Fiji to a transparent and accountable democracy and should not be taken to mean an endorsement of the 2013 Constitution in its current form.”

They said when they took their oath of allegiance in Parliament on Monday, it did not alter their resolve to seek amendments to the Constitution “that we believe are repugnant to the common values and traditions of the people of Fiji.” They claimed that the election results of 2014 showed that 49.6 per of the registered voters supported the FijiFirst, concluding that the majority of the citizens “have not acquiesced to the new order.”

The MPs can say whatever they want to say. They are entitled to their views. That’s their constitutional right. It’s the same Constitution that guarantees them that right, that they are condemning. They are critical of both some aspects of it and the process used to draw it.

Election Results

If Mick Beddoes is still doing the number crunching for SODELPA, the figure of 49 per cent is dubious . He has been proven wrong regularly in the past with his calculations. He rubbished the Razor Research-Fiji Sun weekly opinion poll and my political analysis in the build-up to the elections. The results vindicated the Fiji Sun.

When SODELPA realised they were losing the election during the count, Mr Beddoes unashamedly appeared on the scene and claimed the election was rigged because of alleged irregularities. Their submission was quickly dismissed by the Electoral Commission because it lacked credible evidence and substance.  Reputable and independent Multi-national Observer Group members ruled the election was fair and credible.

It was a clear case of sour grapes. SODELPA leaders were clutching at straws in a desperate bid to salvage their dented pride.

It’s interesting that in their letter to Ratu Epeli, the SODELPA MPs never mentioned this issue. Does this mean they have abandoned their pursuit because they realise it is a wild goose chase?

SODELPA needs to clarify whether the 49 per cent of registered voters they quoted was worked out from:

– Total number of votes cast

– Or the total number of registered voters.

It cannot be the total votes cast because FijiFirst scored a landslide victory. A total of 83.9 per cent of Fiji’s 591,101 registered voters voted. Only 0.75 per cent of the 496,364 ballots cast were invalid, a record low for an election in Fiji.

Only 16.1 per cent failed to vote. SODELPA obviously calculated the 49 per cent from the total number of registered voters which included those who voted and others who failed to vote. In others words, SODELPA is claiming that most if not all of that 16.1 per cent supported it and other parties. This is simply not possible. How could they know?

Face Saving

The letter is a face-saving exercise to appease SODELPA supporters who may feel that their MPs have acquiesced to the new order. SODELPA has been swept away by the new order from day one. It is still stunned by the election outcome. But from the beginning, SODELPA vehemently opposed the 2013 Constitution because its making “was flawed in many ways; not free and fair; non-inclusive and lacking in public participation.” In their letter, the MPs also said the Constitution needed to be corrected. They sought the following:

– Reinstating what they called important parts of our history and reference to Fiji’s religious heritage.

Fact: the Constitution, under the Secular State recognises all religions and religious freedom.

– Reviewing the role of the military.

Fact: During the rule of Laisenia Qarase’s  SDL government, there was proposal in a draft Defence White Paper to review the military and downsize it by half its strength. The military was not happy when it got wind of it. It soured relations and developed into a full blown conflict which culminated in the 2006 takeover.

– Removing limitation on Basic Rights and Freedom.

Fact: SODELPA needs to give examples.

– Recognise the group rights of the indigenous Fijians (iTaukei).

Fact: The Preamble of the Constitution says “we the people of Fiji” recognise “the indigenous people or the iTaukei, their ownership of iTaukei lands, their unique culture, customs, traditions and language.”

– Restore and strengthen the Great Council of Chiefs .

Fact: The council had been abolished because it was politicised. It was set up originally by the colonial masters to help in administering the iTaukei. It had outlived its purpose and became a hotbed for politics. Many ordinary iTaukei do not miss the council except for few chiefs who used it to advance their political agenda.

– Undoing the politicisation of the public service

Fact: The pending public service reforms will no doubt examine this issue. How do we define politicisation of the public service? This is linked to the accountability of the executive or the legislature (the political arm). Who is accountable when things go wrong in a ministry. Is it the line minister or the permanent secretary? If we go for a neutral public service, then the buck stops with the PS. Who does the PS report to, the Public Service Commission or his minister? In its role the public service executes the development plans of its political masters.  Is this politicisation?

– Redistributing the concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister and Attorney-General.

Fact: This is a political decision. They hold the key positions to ensure that Government policies are carried out, an arrangement that has worked well for them in the past and will work for them in the future.

– Reviewing the extensive and unconditional immunity covering the coups of 1987 and 2006.

Fact: With the amount of work that the military is doing for this country in development projects, let’s leave the past behind and move forward. The kind of review that SODELPA is targeting could reopen old wounds and take us back.

– Reviewing the decision of a Secular State and reinstating the principles and inclusive values of Christianity.

Fact: Freedom of worship or religion is a Christian principle and is guaranteed by the Constitution under a Secular State. There is no threat to Christianity or its practice.

– The insistence that the language in Fiji be English when 90 per cent of the population speaks languages other than English.

Fact: English is an universal language. It is the language that is used in many facets of national life. In Fiji, it is the common language. Speaking, writing and understanding English helps to get people ahead whether it is in business or trying to secure a job.


SODELPA knew much earlier that it had little choice but follow the course of action that has led to Parliament. It could have boycotted the election but it didn’t because it did not want to be left out. It could also have boycotted Parliament but it didn’t. It used the old adage: “If you can’t beat them join them”.

Its MPs would be more useful in Parliament than outside.  Besides, who would not want prestige, privilege, remuneration and opportunities to contribute to a young democracy?



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