Party Changes

A call for Fiji to become a Christian state is unlikely to make it to the SODELPA manifesto in the wake of the controversy over the Methodist Church. The call
29 Apr 2017 11:17
Party Changes

A call for Fiji to become a Christian state is unlikely to make it to the SODELPA manifesto in the wake of the controversy over the Methodist Church.

The call for the restoration of the Great Council of Chiefs could either be relegated in the pecking order of priority policies or would disappear altogether.

It is understood SODELPA’s brains trust is working hard to come up with a manifesto that has a wide public appeal. The aim is to let Fijians know that SODELPA is not only a party for iTaukei championing indigenous issues, but it also exists for all Fijians.

This was the dream of party reformers when they began an internal movement  from the exposure of the controversial Gaunavinaka Report to  the adoption of sweeping changes in an amended party constitution. That dream is about to be realised with a manifesto that encompasses everything they believe in.

The election of Sitiveni Rabuka as the new party leader, taking over from Ro Teimumu Kepa is an integral part of that jigsaw puzzle.

When Mr Rabuka danced to the tune played by right-wing conservatives pro-indigenous Fijian supporters in the United States, he made many reformers here feel uncomfortable. His response to questions there contradict some of the  things the party has been trying to portray here, like the issue of multiracialism.

Since he became party leader he has been advocating a shift from the 2014 election platform in line with the reformers’ dream.

He has had to tread carefully because of the conservatives who still cling on the old SODELPA policies.

It is understood that a draft manifesto could be ready as early as  May which is a few days away. It will show whether he has succeeded in chartering a new direction for SODELPA. The reformers believe that the party needs to focus on bread and butter issues more than abstract ideologies like the Christian state, the GCC and indigenous rights.

They know that the indigenous rights are intact; the Christian state is a step back to the past and out of kilter with the practices of modern democracies; the GCC is a political dinosaur that should not be brought back to life.

The time, cost and energy used to  fight for these issues should be diverted to helping young Fijians get well educated, secure jobs, raise a  good family and be productive and law-abiding citizens in nation building.

Both Mr Rabuka and the Methodist Church yesterday responded on their perceived political relationships. Mr Rabuka said that the Methodist Church was not the mouthpiece of SODELPA. The church has also said the same thing.

Both have been accused of collusion in their submissions on Christian state, GCC and indigenous rights because of their similarities. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama had accused the church of being the mouthpiece of SODELPA . He referred to a submission by a group of talatalas on the village by-laws. Among the five points they raised were the Christian state, GCC and indigenous rights.

But the church, in a statement, yesterday, said it was apolitical. It means  it is neutral and does not participate in party politics. It dissociated itself from the controversial submission and said the sub-committee involved went beyond its terms of reference in drawing up the points in the submission.

The party is likely to drop the Christian state idea. That’s an imperative if the party wants to move forward.

The other relics from the past that need to be thrown overboard include the Opposition to the constitutional provisions of equal citizenry and common identity. That could open up the party to non-iTaukei and broaden its base support.


Edited by Naisa Koroi



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