Laisenia Qarase For New Party Leader

His wife, Leba, says “no more” meaning her husband has turned his back on politics.
17 Apr 2019 16:31
Laisenia Qarase For New Party Leader
Former Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase.

Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s name has been bandied about as SODELPA’s next party leader.

His name has been thrown into the mix as the leader who can unite the warring groups between the North and South.

But he said yesterday he had not been approached. Besides, he said, he was not sure whether he could hold any office in the party because of his court conviction.

He was jailed for 12 months for abuse of office in 2012.

But under the Political Parties (Registration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) Act 2013 no person may be an office holder who has been convicted of an offence and jailed six months or more in the past five years.

Mr Qarase is now eligible to hold an office. He is also eligible to contest the election from 2020.

He said the ban on him contesting an election expired in 2022, when the next election will take place.

Mr Qarase is non-commital on his political future.

But his wife, Leba, says “no more” meaning her husband has turned his back on politics.

They were asked what their plans were after speculation kept growing that Mr Qarase’s name had been proposed as the next party leader after Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka resigned because SODELPA lost the 2018

General Election as stipulated by the party constitution.

It is understood Mr Qarase had earlier been sounded out and he said he was in.

Speculation was rife after former MP and founding SODELPA member Mere Samisoni warned in an email exchange with MP Mosese Bulitavu that “you and your team are no longer wanted.”

She told him: “Take heed of the winds of change. It’s coming. If your team wants to keep the block for yourselves, we’ll see you at the polls in 2022.”

She was disappointed that no retreat had been held to review the 2018 election results after she handed in her submission in January this year.

Ms Samisoni has accused the party of kicking her out of the election because it told her Lami constituency voters “If you don’t like the candidate vote for the party”.

She said she lost because of that. Instead, the votes went to then party leader Sitiveni Rabuka and president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

Party members have now been informed that the retreat would be next month. But no date has been given.

Another contentious issue is the decision to hold the annual general meeting (AGM) in Savusavu, instead of Suva.

Constituencies in Viti Levu (representing the South group) which number more than those in Vanua Levu and Taveuni (comprising the North group) are protesting against Savusavu as the venue.

They argue not only is it costly to travel there, but it is stacked to favour North interests, in this case keeping the Tui Cakau and MP Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu president and returning Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka as party leader.
Mr Qarase is being seen as the compromise party leader.


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