Politics

Flurry Of Emails Mark Suspended SODELPA Party’s Desperate Bid To Remedy Breaches Of Constitution

Immediately after the announcement of the suspension by Registrar of Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem, on Tuesday there was a flurry of emails between the two factions and Mr Saneem.
28 May 2020 16:21
Flurry Of Emails Mark Suspended SODELPA Party’s Desperate Bid To Remedy Breaches Of Constitution
From left: Suspended SODELPA vice president Vijay Singh, suspended SODELPA Opposition MP Adi Litia Qionibaravi, Photos: Ronald Kumar

Efforts have begun in a desperate bid to remedy the breaches in the constitution of suspended SODELPA.

The suspended party has 60 days to show cause why it should not be deregistered.

Immediately after the announcement of the suspension by Registrar of Political Parties, Mohammed Saneem, on Tuesday there was a flurry of emails between the two factions and Mr Saneem.

Suspended officials and Members of Parliament were copied in on the email messages, so they were widely circulated to keep members informed of the developments.

The emails contained queries on:

1) How do they get started to remedy the situation?

2) Who is overall in charge to call meetings?

Copies of e-mails with the suspended party showed that one of the first people to write to Mr Saneem was vice president Vijay Singh.

He wrote: “I take note of your decision to suspend the SODELPA party, and I respectfully comply with the same.

“We wish to remedy the breaches within the 60 days.

“To that end, please confirm the following:

1.  That I am the only surviving vice president following the Court Judgment;

2.  That according to Section 18 and Annexure E of the SODELPA Constitution party organisation structure I am the most senior executive and more senior than the party leader;

3.  That both Adi Litia Qionibaravi and Emele Duituturaga are no longer registered as the general secretary of the party following your decision today;

4.  That as the remaining Vice President I have the sole authority to convene the working committee and the Management Board meetings to remedy the breaches;

5.  That as the executive authority, I have sole custody of the SODELPA party bank accounts as well as the keys to the party office and assets.  I will need this authority to be able to protect the assets of the party during this period of suspension from any party member who currently has access.

“I would be most grateful for your confirmation of the above so we can act swiftly within the timeframe given to remedy the breaches and comply, to bring certainty to our members and supporters at this time of great uncertainty.”

This email was copied to Working Committee members except for Tevita Tabalailai, as he does not have an email account.

In another circular to suspended officials and Members of Parliament, Mr Singh wrote:

“I write with regrets that due to the actions taken by SOE was a result of a dispute within our party and now Mr Saneem has made it very clear as to who is legal and who is not.

“On that note I have sent an email to PL (party leader) and Hon Adi Litia Qionibaravi to clarify what has been stated by the SOE.

“As stated by the SOE that I Vijay Singh is the only legal VP and I am duty-bound by the SODELPA Constitution to do the right thing.

“There shall be no meeting called by Hon Adi Litia Qionibaravi at any level of SODELPA Party for the time until MB (Management Board) had met and decided.

“My direction is for the WC (Working Committee) to meet first and that’s subject to SOE approval, since section 19(3) says party cannot operate, function, represent or hold itself out to be a political party.

“There shall be no MB meeting until such time I have got approved from SOE and carried accordingly.”

At about the same time Adi Litia, suspended general secretary, wrote to Mr Saneem asking some questions about things to do moving forward.

The following is Mr Saneem’s response:

“Dear Adi Litia

“I acknowledge your email. I wish to request that all correspondence from SODELPA (in suspension) is through the Vice President so that he is in the loop. It is also necessary to keep a streamlined communication approach to facilitate accurate and timely information exchange.

“As a matter of courtesy, I provide the answers below to your enquiries. I expect that future correspondence will be through the Vice President. Vinaka”

Mr Saneem reproduced Adi Litia’s questions and answered them.

Adi Litia: “Good afternoon Mr Registrar.

“I would be most grateful for your response to the following questions:”

Adi Litia: “Whether the Caucus Reps in the Management Board can join the Management Board meeting.”

Saneem: “This would be decided based on the Constitution. If they are entitled to attend by the Constitution, they can.”

Adi Litia: “Whether I remain as general secretary?”

Saneem: “Your position as general secretary is the subject of significant dispute in the party (in suspension). The Registrar wishes that the Party properly appoint the general secretary so that all disputes and doubts are immediately resolved. It is untenable to continue to recognise you as general secretary.”

Adi Litia: “We intend to meet tomorrow, Wednesday 27th May at 11am. You had stated that you will attend the meeting, please advise.”

Saneem: “I have already advised you previously and I repeat here that the registrar will not participate in party meetings. It is for the party to the action and resolve its matters.”

Adi Litia: “I will send you the list of MB members tonight.”

Saneem: “I would recommend you to follow the advice of the vice president in this matter. I have copied him in this email for his information.”

Yesterday afternoon there was more email correspondence between Mr Singh and Adi Litia:

Vijay Singh: “Dear Hon Adi Litia,

“You leave me no choice but to copy in the Registrar in this email thread. He is just as invested in this process of remedying the breaches and therefore it is vital from now on that he has knowledge of any individual trying to thwart this process so that he does not hold the party liable for the actions of individuals who simply have NO authority to do so.

“You are no longer the party’s authorised registered officer.

“You are to comply with the instructions I have given to Mr Jope Koroisavou to obtain all SODELPA (in suspension) items as requested from you. The party leader does not hold executive authority to receive those items from you. You need to get with the law and stop these actions that will cause the party to deregister because of this defiance and stalling tactics.

“I have chosen FTUC office as a neutral ground and because I am away overseas, I do not have a registered office in Suva to receive these items.

“It will be kept there in safe custody so that the Working Committee can access it in due time to carry on the work.

“Your continued defiance for authority is costing the party (in suspension) time, when it needs to use every moment given by the Registrar to remedy the breaches and get back on track.”

“COMPLY NOW.

Adi Litia: “Dear Vice President,

“With reference to your response, kindly note that you do not have any powers under the Party Constitution to suspend me.  That power remains the prerogative of the Management Board.”

Vijay Singh: “Dear Adi Litia,

“I instruct you to return all Party property together with HQ keys to FTUC as Anasa is waiting to collect on my behalf.

“In the current circumstances, I am fully responsible for the protection of party belongings and property including bank account and cheque books.

“You are also instructed not to act or perform any duty in that regard without my permission.

“I believe you will cooperate and follow my instructions in due course.”

The emails confirm that Mr Singh is the only legitimate presiding authority as vice president. Nothing happens until he approves it.

Adi Litia cannot act unilaterally and call a meeting like she tried to do.

The Management Board will decide the changes and elect people to fill vacant acting positions until the annual general meeting when the members will elect the substantive post holders.

The appointment of the 42 board members must be transparent. They must be nominated by the constituencies they represent. That process should follow the requirements as stipulated in the constitution. A proper election protocol must be adhered to and clearly documented.

In the past, it was not clear how some board members got on the board. Their membership was a bit of a mystery because of the lack of transparency and accountability. This time that won’t happen because documentary evidence will be demanded by Mr Saneem.

Once the board membership is decided and confirmed the party can move to remedy the other issues raised by Mr Saneem.

It is understood that Mr Singh has moved quickly to try to secure the keys, finances, assets and documents that belong to the party. But it is not known whether he has successfully done it.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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