Analysis | Opinion

ANALYSIS: Lynda Tabuya May Have The Last Laugh

Do not blame Lynda Tabuya for thinking that some within the ranks of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) do not appreciate the big difference she made for the party
08 Jan 2019 11:32
ANALYSIS: Lynda Tabuya May Have The Last Laugh
Lynda Tabuya.

Do not blame Lynda Tabuya for thinking that some within the ranks of the Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) do not appreciate the big difference she made for the party in the 2018 General Election.

The attack on the Opposition Whip by SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu is symptomatic of the malaise that afflicts SODELPA.

It’s in the form of a right-wing declaration that SODELPA is a Vanua-based party with protocols and structure that are sacrosanct – which means they can’t be changed or modified.

Mr Bulitavu has again pulled it out to use against Ms Tabuya.

It creates an impression that it’s an attack on women politicians and those such as Ms Tabuya who want to modernise the party.

It’s not the first time that Mr Bulitavu has done this.

In the last term of Parliament, Mr Bulitavu came to the fore in the debate over the controversial Gaunavinaka Report. The report was highly critical of then Leader of the Opposition and party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa and the administration of the Opposition Office.

Mr Bulitavu even called for Ro Teimumu to step down while a full inquiry was conducted. The report, which split the party, took a life of its own and developed into a movement for reforms to position it for the next election.

It necessitated sweeping amendments to the constitution. One of the prominent changes was that the party leader should automatically lose the post if the party loses the election.

It forced Ro Teimumu to step down and allowed Sitiveni Rabuka to step in as new leader and lead the party into the election.

Mr Rabuka also relinquished his party leader post after the 2018 election.

Mr Bulitavu’s outburst gives us an interesting insight into the SODELPA philosophy of the conservative right wingers who still hold sway in the party.

He says it is a party for the Vanua, meaning it is strictly based on cultural and traditional values.

His criticism of Ms Tabuya’s dress standard at the ceremonial opening of Parliament mirrors them.

Women in many iTaukei villages are required to wear sulu-i-ra to cover the knees and the legs and modest top outfits. Ms Tabuya was well covered from the neck down to the knees. There was nothing wrong with her dress, which had its unique style and poise.

But Mr Bulitavu claimed it sent shockwaves to party stalwarts who guarded “our itovo and vakarau” or our culture and traditions. He said she became “an immediate enemy given your daring method (dress to kill technique) …”

The clash of values underpins the challenges SODELPA faces in the next four years. It could negate the progress and gains the party achieved in the past four years.

The party’s future depends on whether its members will toe Mr Bulitavu’s or Ms Tabuya’s line.
Despite what Mr Bulitavu thinks about Ms Tabuya, the party cannot deny the huge benefits that Ms Tabuya brought to it.

She won over workers who previously supported other parties, young men and women who saw her as their voice and ordinary people who felt her sincerity and benefitted from her charity and compassion.

Mr Rabuka saw her potential and realised her powerful pulling power. The fact that she polled 8795 votes, the fifth-highest after Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Mr Rabuka, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad, proved it.

She became one of Mr Rabuka’s closest allies.

Mr Bulitavu is seen as a rebel who is disliked in some quarters because he is outspoken.

His latest tirade drew the ire of Mick Beddoes, who continues to be the mouthpiece of Ro Teimumu.

Mr Beddoes says it is not surprising to learn that the alleged instigator is Mosese Bulitavu, a co-author of what he describes as the baseless Gaunavinaka Report designed to discredit Ro Teimumu.

He adds: “Now Bulitavu is supposedly behind this new move to discredit Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya.

“Just as he found out that former Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa was no pushover and fought back, Bulitavu will soon realise that Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya is also no pushover either and is far more dynamic, articulate and switched on as a new Member of Parliament, than he ever hoped he would be.

“His problem, as I see it, is that he spends his time looking inwardly to find fault, instead of focusing on the party’s adversary and the abuses to our rights. I have no doubt that Lynda will soon ‘whip’ him into line!”

While Mr Beddoes denies there have been splits in the party, he must be kidding. He is already aligned himself and the Ro Teimumu camp with Ms Tabuya.

While attempts have been made to patch up differences in the past, the wounds have not completely healed.

In fact, they have been reopened.

The question is: Who will have the last laugh? My prediction is Ms Tabuya.

TOMORROW: Can SODELPA retain their gains from the 2018 General Election?

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

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