Sodelpa Two Face Internal Scrutiny

New Opposition SODELPA Whip Salote Radrodro and her deputy Mosese Bulitavu are under siege within their own parliamentary caucus. Fellow MPs are asking questions why the two broke ranks and
03 Oct 2016 11:00
Sodelpa Two Face Internal Scrutiny
From Left: SODELPA MP Salote Radrodro, SODELPA president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu

New Opposition SODELPA Whip Salote Radrodro and her deputy Mosese Bulitavu are under siege within their own parliamentary caucus.

Fellow MPs are asking questions why the two broke ranks and did not vote in the voting that passed the motion to increase allowances for all MPs in Parliament last week. The rest of the MPs voted in favour.

Mrs Radrodro who was deputy Whip, steps up to become the new Whip, replacing Ratu Isoa Tikoca. Ratu Isoa has been suspended from Parliament for two years for anti-Muslim remarks.

Lawyer Mr Bulitavu, one of the rising stars of SODELPA, is now deputy Whip.

Mrs Radrodro and Mr Bulitavu have been hit by an internal storm.

It is not clear whether Mrs Radrodro and Mr Bulitavu will inform the Speaker, Dr Jiko Luveni, that they will not accept the increased allowances.

But some MPs have privately said that the two should not takeany rise as a matter of principle.

Mrs Radrodro and Mr Bulitavu changed their position after earlier agreeing in caucus.

Caucus had endorsed their appointments before the allowance vote. But questions are being asked now why they decided in the last minute to change their position when caucus had unanimously voted to support the allowance.

It is understood that the two changed their positions after receiving a letter from party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

The letter, sent to all SODELPA MPs, contained a party directive that all MPs should vote against the allowance motion, because people were still living in tents and students were still  in makeshift  classrooms,  and what the party described as increasing cost of living and low wages across the board. Ratu Naiqama said it was inappropriate to have an allowance hike.

The party said parliamentary emoluments should be reviewed by an independent committee not by MPs.

Mrs Radrodro and Mr Bulitavu are also under scrutiny for supporting a motion for another committee to review the MPs salaries. MPs are members of the committee including Mrs Radrodro and Prem Singh (National Federation Party). The others are  Brij Lal – Chairperson; Jone Usamate – Member); Alvick  Maharaj – Member; Alexander O’Connor  – member.

When the motion was moved by Government Whip Ashneel Sudhakar, Mr Bulitavu seconded it.

It was rare for the Opposition to support a Government motion.

Mr Bulitavu was questioned why he supported it because it was not normal. Mrs Radrodro was also questioned why she was on the committee because  she contradicted her stand on the composition of the committee.

The motion was passed without debate because of the Opposition SODELPA support.

Mrs Radrodro was contacted yesterday. She wanted questions to be emailed to her. This was done but  her response had not arrived when this edition went to press. Mr Bulitavu could not be reached to comment.

The row over the allowance vote is part of the continuing challenges facing SODELPA.

Mr Bulitavu may have taken his current position because he is on a final warning following the Gaunavinaka Report controversy. He could be expelled from the party if he defied that party directive. But what of Ro Teimumu Kepa, the Opposition leader? She too is on a final warning from that controversy. She defied party directive also when she voted to support the allowance hike. Will she expelled?

Some MPs have also questioned Ratu Naiqama why the letter was delivered on the morning of the vote when it could have been done much earlier.

Jese Sikivou, traditional advisor for Ro Teimumu, said the letter from the Tui Cakau came on the morning of the vote after the SODELPA caucus position had been established and they were all ready to vote on the day.

“Where was he all this time? Why did he refuse to meet with the Gone Marama Bale as Leader of the Opposition, when the request was relayed through Litia Qionibaravi? Why won’t he pick up the phone after numerous phone calls over several days?,”  he said on Facebook.

Ratu Naiqama said last night these issues would be discussed in a meeting on Wednesday in Suva. He declined to comment further. Mrs Qionibaravi could not be reached to comment.

But all MPs are expected to explain themselves over the allowance vote on Wednesday.

The debate is whether it was right to support the allowance hike or not. The pro-Ratu Naiqama group said it was political suicide to support the allowance hike. The pro-Ro Teimumu group is advocating that the party should take a realistic look at MPs’ expenses which do not match current costs. It is also calling for travel insurance for MPs.

Mr Rabuka, who gave his blessing for the allowance hike, is keeping a low profile.

He will try to ensure that these issues will be ironed out to keep the party intact and united. One party source said: “He needs Ro Teimumu. He needs Mr Bulitavu. He needs everyone because in 2018 it will be down to numbers.” Edited by Maraia Vula


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