Analysis

SODELPA AGM At Savusavu Could Face Mass Boycott From Viti Levu

Many constituencies are planning to stay away because they cannot afford to send their delegation.
27 Apr 2019 11:45
SODELPA AGM At Savusavu Could Face Mass Boycott From Viti Levu
L-R: Mosese Bulitavu, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and the Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

A mass boycott could threaten the annual general meeting of the Social Democratic and Liberal Party (SODELPA) if it goes ahead in Savusavu on June 28.

Many constituencies are planning to stay away because they cannot afford to send their delegation.

While discussions are being held privately, there has been no official meetings to plan for the trip to Savusavu.

It is also understood they have been waiting for the post election workshop to happen first before they plan for the AGM. It is understood they have not been officially informed from party headquarters about the dates of the election retreat and the AGM.

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The 21 Members of Parliament are expected by the party to be there because they were elected under the SODELPA banner.

They could face disciplinary action by the party if they are absent without any

genuine excuse. The worse that could happen is expulsion if they fail to comply with party rules and procedures.

Last year a motion by SODELPA Tovata USA was brought up in the AGM at Namoli, Lautoka, to expel Sainiana Radrodro, wife of MP Aseri Radrodro, for her online comments. The motion was not entertained and thrown out.

Replacement

If a MP is expelled, he or she would also lose the parliamentary seat. The party would then use the party list to get a replacement.

This is an extreme scenario which has not happened since the country held its first truly democratic elections in 2014 under the 2013 Constitution and the new electoral law.

If MPs disagree with the direction taken by the party leadership they can express themselves in the right forums. They can also vote against the current party officials in the AGM through the ballot in internal elections.

They are not allowed to do it outside this process because they can be perceived as rebels and incur the wrath of those in party leadership.

Even non-members of Parliament are expected to follow the same rules.

Reprimanded

When SODELPA Youth president Jope Koroisavou emailed his list of grievances to party HQ and copied them to MPs and other officials, he was reprimanded by MP Mosese Bulitavu.

Mr Bulitavu, saying he was speaking as the MPs’ rep, said Mr Koroisavou should air his views in the right forum and apologise to the party leadership.

Some MPs, who do not want to be identified, have questioned how and why Mr Bulitavu was speaking on behalf of the MPs.

If anyone was representing them it would be either Opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka or Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya.

The MPs did not choose him and asked “on whose authority was he speaking for?” It is understood he was speaking on behalf of the party leadership.

Workshop

Mr Bulitavu’s role will be among issues that are expected to be brought up at either the post election workshop or at the AGM.

He is seen as a mouthpiece of the Vanua Levu bloc which has been working hard to ensure that the AGM proceedings will go in its favour.

The bloc wants to retain its dominance at the top of the leadership hierarchy. If its members have their way, they will want to see outgoing president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu return as president and Mr Rabuka as party leader.

But most Viti Levu members want a change to put an end to the internal bickering that has plagued the party since 2014. They realised that they had a real chance of defeating the FijiFirst Government in the 2018 General Election. But they fell short because they were not united.

This week more stories have emerged about how disenchanted some MPs and many unsuccessful candidates were with the party strategy in the election.

Reprisals

Those that I spoke to agreed to talk on the condition of anonymity, because of fear of reprisals, said some constituency candidates found out by accident that they were national candidates late in the piece. They were not officially informed.

The voters told them that the party team had visited them and introduced the new constituency candidates to them.

One disgruntled failed election candidate said: “I could not believe that the party had gone through my constituency without my knowledge.

The voters were confused because I had done the work in the area and the party had come along to steal the limelight. It seemed to me they were more interested in getting elected. Never mind about us.”

He said Mere Samisoni, another unsuccessful candidate, was spot on in her criticisms about the party strategy.

Ms Samisoni had said the party had told her voters that if they were not happy with her they could vote for the party.

Missing

The party youths are campaigning hard to have the AGM moved to Suva so that many of them can attend. They cannot afford to travel to Savusavu.

So, if many people from Viti Levu, are missing from the AGM, we know why.

It raises another question: The future of SODELPA?

If the disgruntled members cannot make the change from within, it has been suggested that a new political party is the last resort.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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