ANALYSIS : Torn Between Two Worlds

To stand or not to stand – that is the question that Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu has been grappling with. The silent wish of the ordinary subjects of Burebasaga, the
07 Jan 2017 12:07
ANALYSIS : Torn Between Two Worlds
Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa during budget debate in Parliament yesterday. Photo: RONALD KUMAR.

To stand or not to stand – that is the question that Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu has been grappling with.

The silent wish of the ordinary subjects of Burebasaga, the traditional iTaukei confederacy, of which she is the paramount chief as the Marama Bale na Roko Tui Dreketi, is that she should give up politics and focus on her traditional role. They cringe when they hear political opponents attack her.

But the wish of SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka and other senior party officials is that she stands again for the 2018 because she is regarded as  high value asset for the  party.

Torn between these two worlds, Ro Teimumu has made her decision but she has kept it close to her chest. Although she is over 70 years old, a close associate says she can still hack it on the campaign trail. She is relatively healthy for her age.

Adi Litia Qionibaravi, general secretary of SODELPA cannot say whether Ro Teimumu was one the 50 applicants who applied to be candidates for the next election. But unconfirmed reports say Ro Teimumu was one of the applicants. She could not be reached to comment. She is currently visiting the United States. Former Fijian journalist Vasiti Ritova, who now lives in the US, posts on her Facebook page that Ro Teimumu has revealed there that she “will reapply” for a SODELPA ticket.

But Jese Sikivou, Ro Teimumu’s traditional spokesperson, said it was not true. He has indicated all along that this may be her last term in Parliament.

It has also been speculated that she is linked to the new party proposed by close confidante and former adviser Mick Beddoes and former SODELPA youth leader Pita Waqavonovono, a Ro Teimumu loyalist.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Waqavonovono refused to make any comment on whether they had approached Ro Teimumu to join their proposed party.

Even the NFP was among parties mentioned as a remote possibility.

Ro Teimumu has friends there like president Roko Tupou Draunidalo and others. In a previous life, the NFP used to be stacked with prominent iTaukei personalities like Ratu Mosese Varasikete Tuisawau from the same chiefly family of the Roko Tui Dreketi as Ro Teimumu.

Whichever way she goes it will come as no surprise. Some of those close to her say she has overcome some of her inhibitions and has developed positive traits as she edges closer to be a consummate politician. She has learned from her previous experiences and she can now handle tricky and testing situations calmly and confidently.

She has the added advantage of her traditional chiefly role when it comes to trying to garner support.

Earlier in her parliamentary term, she had undergone some difficult and challenging times.

The internal bickering over the controversial Gaunavinaka Report and appointment of Biman Prasad as the Opposition spokesperson on the economy  tested her mettle as Opposition and SODELPA leader. Then last year she went through her biggest test when she was forced to relinquish her party leader role in sweeping changes under a revised and amended party constitution.

These experiences have helped polish her political acumen.

But the big question is: Can she work with Mr Rabuka? This is the man she detested because of his role in the 1987 coups. Will she be able to put the past behind her and look at the bigger picture – help Mr Rabuka unseat the Bainimarama government?

Edited by Maraia Vula



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