Analysis | Politics

Vijay Singh Steps Up And Shows He Is In Charge Of SODELPA

The meeting is expected to see fireworks as the two rival factions go head to head for power to control the party.
23 May 2020 11:15
Vijay Singh Steps Up And Shows He Is In Charge Of SODELPA
From left: SODELPA’s acting president Vijay Singh.

SODELPA’s acting president Vijay Singh has stepped up and showed leadership prior to the Important Management Board meeting in Suva today to chart the way forward for the party.

The meeting is expected to see fireworks as the two rival factions go head to head for power to control the party.

Mr Singh has heeded calls that he should stand strong and make decisions based on the requirements in the party constitution.

Second Working Committee meeting

On Thursday he chaired the second Working Committee meeting by Zoom from Australia. Adi Litia Qionibaravi also attended despite an earlier committee resolution to suspend her as general secretary pending investigations into complaints against her on governance issues by SODELPA USA members. The meeting was tense as Adi Litia questioned the basis of the committee’s decision. It escalated to heated exchanges and two members walked out because they could not take it any more. Mr Singh then ended the meeting.

He issued a media release immediately after that meeting but there was no mention of the row.

It is understood that Mr Singh expressed his concern to Mr Rabuka about Adi Litia’s conduct at the meeting. He reportedly told Mr Rabuka that hired personnel will be the secretariat at today’s meeting at Holiday Inn in Suva because they were concerned about Adi Litia’s disruptive behaviour at the committee meeting. Mr Singh is understood to have told Mr Rabuka that despite several warnings Adi Litia continued and would not heed his warning. He told Mr Rabuka that she disrespected Committee members and even shouted at them.

SODELPA general secretary Adi Litia Qionibaravi. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Adi Litia Qionibaravi. Photo: Ronald Kumar

He asked Mr Rabuka to support his executive decision

Party observers say this could be a precursor to today’s board meeting. It is understood that Mr Singh is aware that there are moves to oust him as acting president even though he is constitutionally the rightful presiding authority as the only substantive vice-president left after the landmark High Court ruling.

This is after a proposal for settlement was offered to the Watisoni Nata group which took SODELPA and its officers to court over governance issues. The peace offer included that the Nata group agrees that Ro Filipe Tuisawau should come back as acting president in the board meeting. In return, Ro Filipe, ousted vice-president Adi Litia and removed general secretary Usaia Waqatairewa discontinue their intention to appeal the judgment.

It cannot be confirmed whether caretaker party leader Sitiveni Rabuka brokered the peace talks. It was Mr Rabuka who had publicly spoken about uniting the two factions and he had advocated that the trio drop their intention to appeal the court’s judgement.

Leader Of Opposition, Sitiveni Rabuka

Sitiveni Rabuka

In the first committee meeting the previous week, the statement was released the following day not by Mr Singh but by caretaker party leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

While Mr Rabuka announced that the committee resolved to suspend general secretary Adi Litia Qionibaravi over alleged governance issues raised by SODELPA USA members, she would continue in her role until the Management Board meeting today. The board will discuss the committee resolutions and decide whether to endorse them or not.

It has been a convention that the board merely ratifies the resolutions of the committee, the board’s workhorse or engine room for want of a better word. If the board reverses the committee’s decisions it will be the first time. Would it mean a vote of no-confidence in the committee?

The five-member committee operates on the mandate of the board because it’s logistically and administratively difficult to bring together 42 board members from around the country and make decisions on important issues at short notice.

When the party constitution was first drawn up there were only nine board members. After the 2014 election loss the board was upsized to 42. It is understood that this was done to make it more representative of the 14 provinces. But what was overlooked was the practical difficulties. Adi Litia is not taking the move to suspend her lying down. She has challenged it saying she was not afforded natural justice because she was not given the opportunity to defend herself. She did on Thursday and it triggered a heated discussion.

She is expected to challenge the suspension decision again at the board meeting today. Mr Singh said in a statement that the meeting was special because “it needs to fill the vacancies that have arisen as a result of the High Court judgment.”

“The court has ruled that the persons holding the positions of President, Vice President, General Secretary and Treasurer elected during the 2019 Savusavu AGM be removed. The Supervisor of Elections has further stipulated that if the positions are not filled by May 27th, that the party will face suspension,” he said.

“As Acting President, it is my duty to comply with the law and do everything in my power to preserve the integrity of our party.

The agenda for the meeting is as follows:

1. To fill and confirm the casual vacancies of the Party Executive, including Acting President, two Acting Vice Presidents, Acting General Secretary and Acting Treasurer as per the constitution.

2. To fill vacant positions in the various committees of the Party including Finance and Fundraising.

3. Review of the Constitution.

4. Implementation of the Nawari Report, a report accepted by the Management Board dealing with governance issues.

“The meeting of the Management Board is limited to members only. There will be no media or outside persons allowed. We have been issued a permit by the Fiji Police Force and will adhere to the COVID-19 restrictions of social distancing.

“I ask our members, supporters for your prayers and continued faith in our party as we sail these tough times together. SODELPA is a family and differences exist that need to be sorted. We are taking longer than our supporters would like but please do bear with us. I am calling on everyone to support the party in its mammoth task to achieve outcomes that will benefit the Party and see us moving forward stronger and more unified for 2022.”

Apart from the election of new officials, there is no specific mention about motion time. If there are motions, will they be allowed for discussion and voted on. The other interesting item is the Mesake Nawari Report which highlighted several governance issues, some of which were highlighted in the landmark High Court decision against the party and its officials.

The judge, Justice Vishwa Datt Sharma, ruled that the annual general meeting at Yaroi Village, Savusavu was null and void. Therefore the election of officers including president Ro Filipe Tuisawau, vice-president Adi Litia and general secretary Usaia Waqatairewa was invalid. They have since filed their intention to appeal against the ruling despite Mr Rabuka’s directive to drop it for the sake of party unity

Their decision has worsened the division. But Mr Singh, it appears, has regained his composure after his first committee meeting and is determined to keep the party afloat despite attempts to undermine his position.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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