Analysis

Nemani Delaibatiki: SODELPA Walks Tightrope To Try To Strike Balance Between Focus On Indigenous Interests And National Conversation

How can it reconcile the two when its advocacy is purely indigenous? That’s its power base which it will focus on.
23 Jan 2020 09:55
Nemani Delaibatiki: SODELPA Walks Tightrope To Try To Strike Balance Between Focus On Indigenous Interests And National Conversation
Opposition MP Ro Teimumu Kepa, Opposition MP Niko Nawaikula and SODELPA president Ro Filipe Tuisawau.

An internal discussion paper has identified indigenous interests as the core of SODELPA’s platform for the 2022 General Election.

“For any political party the core support base of voters matter,” the document says.

“In the case of SODELPA, it is the native Fijians whose interests and aspirations as well as grudges and grievances form part of the overarching theme of our current manifesto.

“In this regard there is a need for the members to be consistent and continue to link them to indigenous issues without making any controversial comments about the other communities.”

This is the dilemma facing the party.

How can it reconcile the two when its advocacy is purely indigenous? That’s its power base which it will focus on.

At the same it wants to make sure that the other races are happy. Striking the balance right is like walking the tight rope.

SODELPA is advocating positive discrimination. That is a political slogan to justify an agenda.

The party is assuming that it is the voice of the iTaukei and it is the repository of everything iTaukei.

It is banking on iTaukei support to win the next election.

It’s strong emphasis on iTaukei would drive away Indo-Fijian and general elector voters and other races.

It would also have to deal with a serious split in the party which may threatens its viability and may jeopardise SODELPA chances in the next election in 2022.

The split has manifested itself in a court case before the Civil High Court. Yesterday, Judge Justice Vishwa Dutt Sharma informed lawyers from the two sides that the hearing was set for January 30 stays.

This was after the court registry had informed lawyers about yesterday’s sitting to discuss a proposal to move the date because Justice Sharma had some pressing matters to attend to.

When the court reconvened yesterday Justice Sharma reiterated that he would stick with January 30 which he set last month.

That would allow him to come up with a decision that would fit into the constitutional timeframe for the party to begin the process of preparing for the next annual general meeting in June.

The party general secretary is required to send out notices for expression of interest four months before the AGM. That means this month.

A group led by the party’s Suva Constituency president Watisoni Nata is challenging the party over the annual general meeting at Yaroi Village, Savusavu in June last year.

If Justice Sharma rules in their favour it could mean a fresh election of office bearers maybe called. That is a why a ruling soon is crucial whichever way it goes because of the constitutional requirements of the party.

Fallout

The fallout from this row could lead to a group leaving the party or joining other parties. But no other party has similar policies like SODELPA’s particularly on indigenous issues.

This row is a major disruption as it tries to step up a gear for 2022.

The discussion paper that is called Leader of Opposition memorandum says FijiFirst strategy is clearly to show the nation that it is an effective Government, that it is ‘business as usual’ as if there is nothing to worry about, which is how the Government wishes to show to the world.

“The Opposition must adopt smart strategies to perform outside the box and project an image of the legislature that it is not business as usual, the discussion paper says.

“Fiji is practicing fake democracy. The second limb of FFP strategy is to portray SODELPA as incompetent, disunited and unable to form. Government if ever elected, Thus the vilification of SODELPA as dangerous for the nation and the people of Fiji, display of contempt and discrediting of any SODELPA motions or ideas and the rubbishing of SODELPA MPs’ intellect.

It says there is a need for a clear overall strategy and consistency in messaging for Parliament sessions.

It says while sittings, example April and the Budget sittings in June had a clear strategy and message that members consistently advocated, the performance of members in some sittings during the 2018-2019 session was lack-luster.

“While certain individual MPs performance are outstanding, the lack of overall strategy is apparent in that the disparity for performance of members of Parliament

“This also underscores the need for unity and mentoring rather than individual play. The party is only as strong as the weakest link. The pack only moves as fast as the slowest member. So, unity where members consider how to help other members how to improve their performances.”

It says this this will improve party’s prospects for 2022, rather than let the poor performance drag the party image down in the eyes of the voters.

There is also a clear lack of coordination and clear strategy for each sitting, it says.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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