Rabuka Faces Backlash

Sitiveni Rabuka faces a growing backlash over his appointment as SODELPA’s new party leader. Some disgruntled members who vehemently opposed Mr Rabuka are floating an idea of a breakaway party.
26 Jun 2016 10:49
Rabuka Faces Backlash
Former PM Sitiveni Rabuka and the new SODELPA party leader.Photo:Vilimoni Vaganalau.

Sitiveni Rabuka faces a growing backlash over his appointment as SODELPA’s new party leader.

Some disgruntled members who vehemently opposed Mr Rabuka are floating an idea of a breakaway party.

The revolt comes from members of the party who prevented him from becoming leader in 2014.

They included members of the youth wing led by Pita Waqavonovono who has now resigned, some members of the women’s wing and Mick Beddoes who is expected to resign as he promised if Mr Rabuka became party leader. Mr Waqavonovono quit because the very person they opposed in 2014 because of coup involvement in 1987 is back. Some senior party officials have also expressed similar sentiments. They have accepted Mr Rabuka’s appointment with reservations.

Mr Beddoes, the former principal administration officer in the Opposition Office, has questioned Mr Rabuka’s commitment to the party in a statement he posted on social media. The close confidante and adviser to Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, said Mr Rabuka had a high profile “but not for the reasons he believes.”

“The only two things he is reported to have said in recent times is, SODELPA should have a vision like Fiji First, and that ‘Frank Bainimarama’ had the right to change our current Fiji Flag. This of course is the opposite position that the SODELPA Youth under the direction of Ro Teimumu Kepa took on the flag issue and succeeded in getting it pushed back.

“First of all Mr Rabuka’s commitment to the party itself is a concern. This will be I believe his 3rd attempt to try and secure our party leadership but after each previous failed attempts, he has resigned. What does this say about his commitment to the party? Is it conditional on his being elected leader?”

He said another problem he had with a Rabuka leadership, was that his credentials mirrored that of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

“The other misconception that his supporters have is that Mr Rabuka will bring to the party his huge support base.  But there is no evidence of this.

“In contrast to this, just 20 months ago  Ro Teimumu Kepa who is, in my view, the ‘most electable’ respected, admired and courageous leader we have, and a Paramount Chief of Fiji received 49,485 votes which is 35 per cent of the total SODELPA votes in 2014. And we think we are going forward by replacing her with someone who 10 years ago could only secure 238 votes? I mean, seriously?”

Mr Beddoes said: “Displacing


the leader who polled the largest number of votes for the party and risking her supporter’s continued loyalty, after the disrespectful way Ro Teimumu has been treated by some in the executive, is an act of lunacy.”

Mr Beddoes represents what Ro Teimumu stands for. She was visibly disappointed when Mr Rabuka won the leadership vote. She had hoped that MP Viliame Gavoka, one of her loyal and closest allies, would have got the nod.

While she said that she respected the party process and everyone should support Mr Rabuka, she harbours her resentment against him because of his role in the 1987 military coups and the damage they did to the country.

This is no secret and if there is a new leadership challenge against Mr Rabuka one can reasonably assume which side she will be on.

Some party dissidents are talking about forming a new party and then compete with SODELPA to align themselves with other opposition parties.

The 50-seater bus concept (representing Parliament) is still an attractive prospect which calls for a grand coalition of all opposition parties to try and topple FijiFirst in the 2018 general election.

It’s a realisation that SODELPA, National Federation Party, Fiji Labour Party, People’s Democratic Party and One Fiji Party cannot win the election individually.

But collectively as a coalition, they have some hope because FijiFirst is so deeply entrenched in the political landscape that it would be difficult to dislodge it.

Mr Rabuka said last night he was aware of the dissidents.

“It’s an indication of what we have to do to reach out and unite the party,” he said.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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