Politics

Nemani Delaibatiki: Can The Two SODELPA Factions Reconcile Their differences?

It’s a tough question because some are still carrying the hurt from the 2018 General Election. The party survived the last big split after the 2014 election. It may not be lucky this time.
01 Feb 2020 12:20
Nemani Delaibatiki: Can The Two SODELPA Factions Reconcile Their differences?
SODELPA member Mere Samisoni and Party President Ro Filipe Tuisawau

Analysis:

Will the two SODELPA factions be able to reconcile their differences after the judgment in their court case is handed down soon?

That’s the question that some members are asking after their latest public spat when the president, Ro Filipe Tuisawau, clashed with a group of disgruntled members.

Whichever way the ruling goes, all indications are that the chances of reconciliation are slim unless they agree to certain conditions.

The last time the party suffered a serious split was after the 2014 General Election. It was over the controversial Gaunavinaka Report.

The party recovered from it and won five more seats in the 2018 election. This time it may not be so lucky.

We could even see a new-look SODELPA.

There are three possible scenarios:

  • A SODELPA without the disgruntled group if it loses its case;
  • A SODELPA with a new-look leadership if the disgruntled group wins the case;
  • A SODELPA with a compromised leadership.

Ro Filipe has made it public that members who are not happy with the party can leave and join a new party.

That statement has incensed some members who have worked hard to bring the party to its current strength and win five more seats in Parliament in the 2018 General Election.

The prospect of joining a new party has not been ruled out. But that’s the last resort. They would, however, want the party to move away from extremist and radical views like the attack on the LGBTQ community that go against universal principles of equality and human rights.

But if they can change the leadership and introduce other changes on governance then they will stay with the party.

The drama that people who were present saw before the hearing of the SODELPA case in the Civil High Court in Suva on Thursday demonstrates the tense undercurrents that exist in the party.

The way that Mere Samisoni, one of the plaintiffs, reacted in court in front of the rival faction indicates the feelings from what happened in the 2018 General Election campaign are still raw.

Ms Samisoni is a straight shooter. If she does not like something she will say it.

It’s apparent that she is still not happy with how she was treated by her own party officials in the 2018 election.

She had worked so hard in the Lami, Veisari and Delainavesi area promoting the party because she was the sole party candidate.

She had spent thousands of dollars in development projects and assistance to people.

But when the party campaign team arrived it was talking about other candidates as well.

She strongly felt she lost as a result of this because the voters were confused.  They were being told they could also vote for other candidates. She also felt that she had been betrayed by her party on her home turf big time.

She raised questions in the party election post mortem but it is understood that she did not get a satisfactory response.

Other failed candidates expressed similar sentiments. She strongly felt that if the party had stuck to the original plan of promoting constituency candidates, it would have won the election because she and others would have carried SODELPA over the finish line.

If the defendants, SODELPA and officials, win the court case, we can expect a continuation of a move to the right and the consolidation of policies on indigenous issues.

That has been identified in an internal discussion paper as the core strength of the party.

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