Analysis | Opinion

Analysis: Governance On Agenda For SODELPA Annual Meeting

Governance should be high on the agenda at SODELPA’s annual general meeting at Namoli Village, Lautoka on Saturday. If it’s not on the party’s official agenda, it will be on
28 Jun 2018 12:08
Analysis: Governance On Agenda For SODELPA Annual Meeting
SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka

Governance should be high on the agenda at SODELPA’s annual general meeting at Namoli Village, Lautoka on Saturday.

If it’s not on the party’s official agenda, it will be on the agenda of a group of dissidents who are not happy with the way the party has been run.

These dissidents are worried about the overall implications of what they claim is the lack of transparency and accountability on important issues.

When they talk about transparency, one very basic issue is the constitution. Is it accessible to all members? It appears not many members have a copy.

If the party has to improve its transparency and accountability image it must first start by making the constitution accessible to all the members both online and on paper.

They need to know what’s in the constitution especially when it’s not the same one they used leading up to the 2014 general election.

Halfway through this Parliamentary term, the party amended its constitution and introduced sweeping changes to strategically position it for the 2018 general election.

One of the reforms requires the party leader to step down if the party loses a general election. It subsequently led to Ro Teimumu relinquishing her party leader role.

But she retains her parliamentary role as Opposition leader. The constitutional reforms caught Ro Teimumu and her camp by surprise.

Despite a heated debate and calls for more time to discuss the proposed changes, the document was pushed through by the reformers who outnumbered Ro Teimumu’s group.

The obvious lack of transparency in most of the process and the inadequate time given for discussion and debate created an atmosphere of tension and division.

It exacerbated the already frosty relations caused by the exposure of the controversial Gaunavinaka Report which criticised Ro Teimumu’s leadership and the administration of the Opposition Office.

The internal scrutiny of the party administration continues. It reveals that the party cannot operate in a cloud of “secrecy”.

It breeds suspicion, division and resentment. That’s why Ro Teimumu’s camp believed it was a conspiracy to oust Ro Teimumu as leader. Information therefore is crucial and eliminates the negative perceptions. It empowers people to contribute meaningfully to the party.

Another issue that is still a bone of contention with dissidents is the controversial Memorandum of Understanding between SODELPA and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Only a few officials were privy to the document that SODELPA was signed by SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka and PDP “leader” Lynda Tabuya.

I put inverted comas on leader because before the signing as PDP leader, she was endorsed as a SODELPA national provisional candidate.

That could only happen if she had resigned from PDP. But straight after that special general meeting, Ms Tabuya signed the MOU for PDP. If she had resigned from PDP, did that make that signing and the MOU null and void?

In the same special general meeting, Vijay Singh was still PDP vice-president when he was elected SODELPA vice-president.

The anomaly was only discovered when the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, intervened.

After his investigations he found that Mr Singh was still a PDP member and his election breached the Political Parties Act.

He referred the matter to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) for further investigation. It is still pending.

These two cases, the MOU with Ms Tabuya and Mr Singh, who has now resigned from PDP and formally paid his membership fee for SODELPA, prompted a group of five senior members to express their concern to Mr Saneem and the party executives.

The five called for an urgent special general meeting to discuss the issues but were unsuccessful.

Instead a meeting was later organized to sort out a membership free row with Ro Teimumu’s group. It was also announced that meeting resolved the other issues.

The latest rumblings three days from the AGM suggest that the issues had not been completely resolved and are likely to resurface in Namoli.

There is feeling among dissidents that the party is hostile to those who ask questions and challenge the party on issues.

But one thing is certain, they will be out in full force on Saturday.

Since December, this is the first big meeting where they air their grievances.


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