Analysis | Politics

Constitutional Amendments Possible To Set Fragmented, Battling SODELPA On Meeting Course

If that notice goes out next month then the AGM can be held in September or even October
12 May 2020 13:29
Constitutional Amendments Possible To Set Fragmented, Battling SODELPA On Meeting Course
UNDER FIRE: SODELPA president and Opposition Member of Parliament Ro Filipe Tuisawau. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Analysis:

As the internal battle escalates to take control of the Social Democratic and Liberal Party (SODELPA) constitutional amendments will be the focus.

It appears that time has run out to comply with the provisions of the party constitution to hold it next month.

The main requirement is that the party calls for expressions of interest from its constituent bodies four months before the annual general meeting.

If that notice goes out next month then the AGM can be held in September or even October.

But the management board, the governing body of the party, must meet first to authorise it, the date and the venue. Later it will set the agenda based on submissions by constituency councils.

The vehicle that is used to change the rule is constitutional amendment. June can be changed to September or October.

The requirements can also be waived to hold the AGM next month by those who want to push for an early resolution on the pretext to unite the party.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, mass gathering is banned. The early meeting could work against the interests of those with big support because of the number limit.

The September or October timeline is more appropriate and practicable because it gives all groups a fair go.

Caretaker party leader Sitiveni Rabuka is acting as the power broker at this time. He is trying to get two sides in a deepening split to come together as soon as possible. It would be in his interests as a candidate for the next party leader role.

This is even though the party leader appointment process looks like shifting to next year.

A court judgment ruling the election of office bearers at the AGM in Savusavu in June last year null and void means that all decisions by officers after that were invalid – including an advertisement calling for expressions of interest on the new party leader role.

That will have to be re-advertised and it could be next year before the new party leader is confirmed.

In the meantime, Mr Rabuka can continue as the caretaker leader. He has made it public that he wants to continue as party leader.

This is a departure from the convention started in 2016 with former party leader Ro Teimumu Kepa.

She was forced to resign by a constitutional change after losing the 2014 election.

She was of the understanding that she could not seek re-election. She lost an election and that was it. The party constitution is silent on the re-election.

Mr Rabuka has not concealed his ambition to be party leader again even though he lost the 2018 election. If he succeeds and SODELPA wins the election, he could be Prime Minister again.

But his opponents feel there should be a new leader.

He should do the honourable thing like Ro Teimumu did and give way to a new leader, they feel.

While he is stepping up to help the party processes going to organise the AGM, it would be a stepping stone to achieving his dream.

The management board has the final say even after the selection panel has made its recommendation.

Only a constitutional change will stop him contesting the post.

That cannot be ruled out given the fluidity of the situation in the light of the noise coming from party supporters in the United States and Australia.

Feedbacknemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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