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Analysis: Finance In The Mix As SODELPA Faces More Questions In AGM

Analysis: Finance In The Mix As SODELPA Faces More Questions In AGM
June 30
13:34 2018

Questions on the state of SODELPA’s finances will be asked at the party’s annual general meeting at Namoli Village, Lautoka, today.

They are based on concerns by members in Australia and the United States who have donated several thousands of dollars to the party coffers. They have been asking for an accounting of how the money was spent and for what purposes.

A perceived lack of financial transparency has also been raised.

This question is among several expected to be asked.

This meeting has attracted an unprecedented amount of interest because of the outstanding issues that have affected the party’s preparation for the 2018 general election.

There is hope that frank and open discussions will resolve the differences which arose out of these issues. Among the issues are governance, accountability and transparency.

Some members still can’t get over the fact that no one has been held accountable for the controversial election of Vijay Singh as vice-president when he had not resigned as vice-president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

Five senior party members had written to the Supervisor of Elections, Mohammed Saneem, expressing their concern about the December election for office bearers and the surprise memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SODELPA and PDP. The members were concerned about the serious implications of these two issues on the party’s future viability.

Mr Saneem ruled that Mr Singh had breached the Political Parties Act and referred the matter to the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC).

The concerned members argue that if the processes were vetted properly, Mr Singh’s status would have been discovered early. He could have resigned from PDP before contesting the SODELPA poll.

As the members gather this morning at Namoli they have an important role to play.

Would they carry on with what they have been doing or chart a new course for the party? When the issues that have rocked the party are analysed it has emerged that they are linked to old political wounds.

Political history

The bulk of the members who founded SODELPA are former SDL members under former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.  SDL was formed when Veitokani Lewenivanua Vakarisito (Qarase’s group) and the Conservative Alliance Matanitu ni Vanua (Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu) merged after the 2001 election.

If we backtrack two years to 1999, Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry was elected the country’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister after the election that year.

In the 1999 election Sitiveni Rabuka’s SVT party went into coalition with Jai Ram Reddy’s National Federation Party and suffered a heavy defeat. The events of 2000 led to an interim government led by Mr Qarase, a former banker who then went on to form VLV and enter the coalition with CAMV and contest the 2001 poll.

After forming Government the coalition then became the SDL, the forerunner of SODELPA, and effectively replaced SVT as the second biggest party.

Despite attempts to mask the widening rift between their respective camps, they stand on opposite sides of the room.

The possibility of a leadership challenge cannot be ruled out in the future before and even after the election. Ro Teimumu is polling strong in the latest Fiji Sun-Razor opinion survey. She is one of the former core SDL members. She was the Education Minister in Mr Qarase’s SDL Government.

Mr Rabuka’s recent public statements referred frequently to his experience in the SVT governments, his attempts to try and unify the two major races. He has now built a close group around him with Lynda Tabuya playing a prominent role. These are people who have had little or no link to SDL.

There is speculation that with all the challenges facing SODELPA now, Mr Rabuka could be seriously thinking of rebranding the party for a fresh new start.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce



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