Lynda Tabuya is one of the two national candidates endorsed by SODELPA in its special general meeting last month. The fallout within SODELPA is just below the surface and could
09 Jan 2018 11:51
Lynda Tabuya. Photo: Ronald Kumar.

Lynda Tabuya is one of the two national candidates endorsed by SODELPA in its special general meeting last month.

The fallout within SODELPA is just below the surface and could explode

The former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader’s endorsement created a tense and sometimes heated debate over the criteria used to elevate her to that position of privilege.

The other national candidate is SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

National candidates do not have to be recommended by the constituency councils representing the 14 provinces. Under SODELPA strategies they can campaign in any constituency while ordinary candidates concentrate on their respective constituencies.

Questions have been asked why she was chosen over other senior party members, sitting MPs and those who have worked hard to build the party.

It is understood that her selection was part of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between PDP and SODELPA, signed by her and Mr Rabuka. That MOU is now under scrutiny by the Fijian Elections Office to establish whether it complies with the Political Parties decree. SODELPA and Ms Tabuya say it does and have responded to questions asked.

It is understood that part of the deal also was the election of former PDP executive Vijay Singh as a vice-president to give the party a “multiracial image”.

It’s also believed that former PDP leader Felix Anthony, the general secretary of the Fiji Trades Union Congress, and colleague Daniel Urai, the FTUC president, could soon be joining Ms Tabuya as SODELPA candidates. Whether they have applied is unclear. When the Fiji Sun published a provisional SODELPA candidate list last year, Ms Tabuya’s name was on it. She denied then that she had applied for a SODELPA ticket.

The MOU has not only upset many SODELPA members, including Raman Velji, who quit as vice-president, it also infuriated Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

In September last year, it is understood there were talks of a merger between PDP and FLP to boost their chances of winning seats. In the 2014 General Election they did not win a seat because they split the votes.

But haggling over the leadership scuttled any hope of forming a genuine union.

Shortly after that, PDP general secretary, Aman Ravindra-Singh, resigned and joined FLP dissatisfied with the way Ms Tabuya handled the situation.

On or around November 30 last year, Ms Tabuya was interviewed by SODELPA as a candidate. It was the worst kept secret, almost everyone in the joint talks by Opposition political parties for a grand coalition, knew about it.

On December 9, the SODELPA special general meeting started at 10.15am and ended at 4pm. It was a long meeting because of discussions over issues like the Tabuya case.

During this meeting, four names were submitted by general secretary Adi Litia Qionibaravi for vice-president positions. She told the floor these names had been forwarded to SODELPA headquarters prior to the meeting to be put to the floor for selection.

The names included Vijay Singh, former president of PDP, who had resigned and,  Save Kamikamica, nominated by Nasinu, Ro Dona Takalaiyale nominated by Rewa and Anare Jale nominated by Nasinu.

Tui Cakau, SODELPA president and MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu spoke and stressed the importance of multiracialism and walking the talk, implying they should put a non-iTaukei in one of the vice-president positions

Mr Singh scored 168 votes, Mr Jale 154, and Ro Dona 136. They were successfully elected. Sitting member Mr Kamikamica lost. He scored 89.

Many who attended the meeting had no idea that an MOU would be signed after the special general meeting. They had not seen the content of the MOU either, nor was there any prior discussion even though Mr Rabuka had said he was given the mandate by SODELPA to hold coalition talks with other political parties.

Mr Rabuka said there would be a press conference at SODELPA HQ with PDP after the meeting.

The MOU was announced at the press conference.

In the days that followed, debate ensued about the content and objective of the MOU and the status of Ms Tabuya and Mr Singh in PDP.

Five independent lawyers’ opinions were sought. Their opinions of whether PDP and SODELPA complied with the law are not known.

Disenchanted SODELPA members are waiting with bated breath about the outcome of the Fijian Elections Office decision on the controversial MOU.

They feel that this could seriously affect the party’s election preparation.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce


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