Analysis

Analysis: SODELPA In Limbo After Court Ruling

This has given rise to conflicting interpretations. Ro Filipe and Mr Waqatairewa interpret it that they can continue until fresh elections are held.
27 Apr 2020 14:04
Analysis: SODELPA In Limbo After Court Ruling
Ro Filipe Tuisawau, Filimoni Vosarogo and Richard Naidu.

An exchange of correspondence between lawyers in the SODELPA court case suggests the party is in limbo.

Their decision will determine how the party treads the delicate road to the future.

Civil High Court judge Justice Vishwa Datt Sharma has ruled that the party’s annual general meeting at Yaroi Village in Savusavu in June last year was null and void. It means the election of new office bearers including president Ro Filipe Tuisawau, secretary Usaia Waqatairewa and others was invalid.

But Justice Sharma rejected an application for an order for the unlawfully elected officials to vacate their positions. He left it to the financial members to decide.

This has given rise to conflicting interpretations. Ro Filipe and Mr Waqatairewa interpret it that they can continue until fresh elections are held.

But the plaintiffs disagree.

Their lawyer, AK Lawyers, has written to the defendants’ lawyer, Filimoni Vosarogo, to raise their concern.

In a preliminary response, Mr Vosarogo says they are in a “legal quagmire” about the outcomes. They are still reviewing the orders and the effect of Paragraph 171 to the declarations granted by Justice Sharma.

Going forward, he says, the party leader (Sitiveni Rabuka) has been advised to act as point of contact (in the absence of VP Singh) in this matter.

Mr Vosarogo adds that all media and or public statements (if the need arises) will be issued by the solicitors and no other.

He says they also have been advised that Mr Rabuka will provide instructions on moving forward.

The ideal, he explains, is finding the middle ground for all and the lawyers. He says it would be instrumental in moving forward,

He points out that convening the management board meeting would not be possible now given that the quorum is 51 per cent of the members.

Mathematically , he says, it would always be over 20 and the present restriction on meetings would make this impossible.

He will speak with Mr Rabuka on it and is open to the views of the opposite camp.

Mr Vosarogo reveals that the judgment is presently being reviewed by another law firm for appeal purposes.

While he does not reveal the name of the law firm, it is rumoured that it could be Munro Leys where sometime Government critic Richard Naidu is a prominent partner.

Mr Vosarogo says it is possible, that if the appeal is lodged, it will be handled by that law firm. For now, his firm will continue to handle the matter.

That’s an interesting development. It has been alluded to by Mr Vosarogo that COVID-19 restrictions on mass gathering could complicate attempts to move forward.

Mr Rabuka who was elected at a different time by a different process is being identified to oversee any process and he is the only party official who can speak on behalf of the party.

That effectively sidelines Ro Filipe and Mr Waqatairewa. They are no longer authorised to speak on behalf of the party.

That would appease the plaintiffs led by Watisoni Nata.

The road ahead still looks murky and the longer the ban on mass gathering continues, the more difficult it would be to get started because they would be unable to hold a meeting with a quorum anyway.

Judging by what’s being shared on social media, members are beginning to takes sides. This could have a toxic influence on efforts to clean up the party.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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