Intrigue Marks SODELPA Voting

The election of suspended MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu as SODELPA’s new president was filled with intrigue yesterday. As late as Friday, there seemed to be an understanding that Ratu Naiqama
28 Jun 2015 10:20
Intrigue Marks SODELPA Voting
From left: Tupeni Baba, SODELPA leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, and Mick Beddoes in a discussion during their AGM in Suva yesterday. Photo: Shahani Mala

The election of suspended MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu as SODELPA’s new president was filled with intrigue yesterday.

As late as Friday, there seemed to be an understanding that Ratu Naiqama would run unopposed.

But when nominations were revealed in the party’s annual general meeting yesterday, Anare Jale’s name had been nominated.

Mr Jale failed the qualification criteria to contest last year’s general election.

To add to the intrigue, it was not clear who SODELPA and Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa voted for. The voting was by a show of hands. She did not raise her hand for Ratu Naiqama. But her hand was half-raised for Mr Jale.

This was the talking point among those who were present and took part in the voting. One party member asked:
“ Why didn’t she vote for Ratu Naiqama? That’s the big question. We understand this a democratic process. But it’s not a good look.”

This could be traced back prior to the general election last year. Mr Jale and a Lauan delegation that included Adi Ateca Ganilau had approached Ro Teimumu in Nadera, Nasinu in the traditional way to represent Lau. Mr Jale was earlier endorsed as the Laun representative.

Ro Teimumu is the younger sister of Adi Lady Lala Mara (Adi Ateca’s mother).

One party member asked: “Was her loyalty to her family ties more important to the party solidarity. How would Ratu Naiqama feel when he finds out that his party leader had not voted for him. Even if she abstained, question will still be asked.”

Ratu Naiqama overwhelmingly won the vote.

“Can this be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in her,” another party member asked.

A traditional group from Natewa in Cakaudrove had travelled to Suva to nominate Ratu Naiqama, who is the Tui Cakau and paramount chief of the province.

Tailevu was supposed to second the nomination. In the end Naitasiri backed the nomination.

It emerged after the meeting that a few days before, a delegation led by Opposition Whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca, had approached Ratu Naiqama to formally ask him if he was willing to be nominated for president. He accepted it. The understanding was that he would be unopposed.

But he would not be present because he would be attending an important Vanua meeting.

A number of SODELPA MPs including Ratu Isoa, Jiosefa Dulakiverata, Mosese Bulitavu and Niko Nawaikula were absent. Viliame Gavoka, Aseri Radrodro and Sela Nanovo voted for Ratu Naiqama.

Many members at the meeting liked Ratu Naiqama and voted for him. Even though he is a big chief, they said they respected him because he was humble and down to earth.

All the other positions in the party will be contested after the August 8 special general meeting when major proposed amendments to the party’s constitution will be discussed.

The position of president will be strengthened so that the holder becomes “the boss”. At the moment, the party leader is the chief. Ro Teimumu wears the two hats, party leader and Opposition leader.

Explaining the proposed change, general secretary Pio Tabaiwalu, said:

“I have observed how the Liberal Party in Melbourne operates and their party president is the party boss, he is the chair of the board and the most powerful person.

“So with that classic democratic political system , that is where the party is heading towards, to give the president the authority.

“So we have the party leader who operates in Parliament then there is the party president who looks after the party processes without being interfered by the parliamentary work.” Mr Tabaiwalu said..



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