Sitiveni Rabuka: Qarase Okay To Contest

Mr Qarase would have to have the time and energy to take the party to the 2022 General Election.
20 Apr 2019 10:15
Sitiveni Rabuka: Qarase Okay To Contest
SODELPA party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

Sitiveni Rabuka says he is okay with Laisenia Qarase contesting the SODELPA party leader post.

Speaking for the first time on the issue, the Opposition Leader said in Suva yesterday that Mr Qarase would have to have the time and energy to take the party to the 2022 General Election.

“The party leader has to be prepared to run for the following elections. We do not know whether he will want to do that,” Mr Rabuka said.

“It will be a personal choice, whether he has the time or whether he wishes to be embroiled in all these issues or he wishes to retain his freedom and be a statesman who can advise any political party on any topic. No harm in him being nominated.”

Although he did not elaborate, it is understood that he was referring to Mr Qarase’s age.

Mr Qarase turned 78 on February 4, this year. Mr Rabuka is 71.

If he becomes party leader and successfully leads SODELPA in the 2022 elections, Mr Qarase would become Fiji’s oldest Prime Minister at 81 years.

Mr Qarase was non-committal when he was asked about his political future last week. It is understood that he had replied in the affirmative when he was sounded out recently. He appears to be in good health

Meanwhile, on whether he will contest the party leader post, Mr Rabuka said he would only be a candidate if people nominated him.

He said at the moment, he was no longer the party leader because he had resigned as required by the SODELPA constitution.

“My position is up for grabs now,” he said.

“That part is constitutional and my resignation has already been received by the party office.”

However, when asked about whether he would reconsider a second term, he said: “It is up to the people. I can be nominated again, but according to our constitution I had to resign because the party did not win the 2018 elections.”

On whether the party constitution could be amended to accommodate his potential bid for a second term, Mr Rabuka said: “I do not know. That will have to be decided by the members. At the moment the constitution is as it is.”

Mr Rabuka confirmed that the party’s annual general meeting (AGM) would be in Savusavu on June 28.

He said Cakaudrove was chosen as the venue for the AGM out of respect for party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu’s wish that his final AGM be held in his province. He is the Tui Cakau, paramount chief of Cakaudrove.

“Our President Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu has tendered his resignation and it is appropriate that he has his final AGM and the election of the next President of the Party in his own home province, which is why we are having it in Cakaudrove,” Mr Rabuka said.

Regarding Ratu Naiqama’s successor, he said: “It totally depends on who the members will come up with, somebody who has been a loyal member, who has standing in the community and also standing in the country,” he said.

He said failed candidate Mere Samsoni’s criticisms of the party’s conduct in the last election were unfair.

Ms Samisoni claimed the party told voters to vote for the party if they did not like their local candidates.

He agreed that SODELPA had adopted the strategy of promoting the party and the party leader and it was done in all constituencies.

Edited by Epineri Vula


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