Analysis

Vanua Levu Bloc Flexes Its Muscles As SODELPA Heads For Showdown

The Vanua Levu bloc has flexed its muscle and stuck to its demand that the SODELPA annual general meeting be held in Savusavu on June 28. Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka
22 Apr 2019 18:16
Vanua Levu Bloc Flexes Its Muscles As SODELPA Heads For Showdown
Opposition Leader in Parliament Sitiveni Rabuka, Opposition Members of Parliament Peceli Waqairatu. (front) Photo: Ronald Kumar

The Vanua Levu bloc has flexed its muscle and stuck to its demand that the SODELPA annual general meeting be held in Savusavu on June 28.

Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka has revealed that the AGM will be a swansong for outgoing president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu.

Ratu Naiqama will be able to thank his people, particularly his people of Cakaudrove of which he is the paramount chief as Tui Cakau.

Savusavu is in his province.

But in the 2018 General Election, a substantial number if his votes came from Lami and the Suva to Nausori corridor.

In 2015 during SODELPA’s first AGM Ratu Naiqama was nominated by Naitasiri Constituency and voted by members mostly from Suva, Rewa, Tailevu and Lami.

He was not even in that AGM, but sent a letter saying he would accept his nomination as president.

He was later re-elected in 2017.

There is definite opinion by Viti Levu members that the AGM in Savusavu was designed to ensure that the Vanua Levu bloc would have the numbers to have a direct influence on the appointment of a new president and new party leader and amendments to the constitution.

What if the bloc wants him to stand for president again and Mr Rabuka for party leader again.

Mr Rabuka’s re-election would require an amendment to the constitution.

If Ratu Naiqama is truly retiring then the bloc could nominate one of its own people.

The various constituencies in Viti Levu are holding meetings to work out their strategies.

It appears they have lost their battle to have the AGM moved to Suva.

Will they attend or boycott it?

They have to take into consideration the logistics and cost of travelling to Savusavu because they will affect their numbers at the AGM.

If they boycott they will play right into the hands of their Northern rivals.

So the only logical choice is to bite the bullet, make the sacrifice and travel in large numbers.

The North camp cannot be underestimated. It has show that it is a strong political force.

It has successfully radicalised SODELPA with its conservative right wing ideologies.

When Mr Rabuka wanted the party’s parliamentary caucus to support Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as Speaker it was the North group and others who opposed it.

When a tabua (whale’s tooth) was presented to the group to join Laisenia Qarase’s Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua after the collapse of Mr Rabuka’s Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei it rejected it.

It went on to form the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua.

Later it joined forces with SDL.

The emergence of former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase on the scene to potentially take over from Mr Rabu- ka as party leader is introducing new dynamics to SODELPA politics.

The question has been asked whether it is time to bring in young new blood into the party leadership. The old style of leadership seems not to be working.

All it has done is that it is creating rifts in the party.

There is an increasing chorus of calls for SODELPA from within that if it cleans up its act then it could form the next Government.

But it’s not a good look when there are several issues to resolve.

One is the factionalism between North and South.

Two is the recognition of the majority voices.

Third is the contention over the party versus constituency candidates in an election as raised by founding member and failed Lami candidate Mere Samisoni.

It dovetails into the next issue of the $6000 fee for each candidate.

Does it go to funding party leaders contesting the election?

After giving the fee candidates are required to finance their own campaigns.

It is strongly felt that because if the sacrifices they make constituency candidates should be promoted to the public.

This could be sorted out at the party post election workshop next month. The date has not been set.

These are challenging times for SODELPA.

The AGM will determine its future course.

Mr Rabuka was meeting his grassroots support last week.

Don’t be surprised if the Vanua Levu bloc will have the final say. It has proved its resilience in the past and it potentially can do it again.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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