Analysis | Politics

Four Expected To Give Rabuka Tough Fight For SODELPA Leadership

It is understood that when applications closed yesterday the four, Viliame Gavoka, Ratu Jone Navakamocea, Pio Tabaiwalu and Aseri Radrodro were on the list.
13 Aug 2020 10:57
Four Expected To Give Rabuka Tough Fight For SODELPA Leadership
L-R: Ratu Jone Navakamocea, Ratu Jone Navakamocea, Pio Tabaiwal, Aseri Radrodro and Viliame Gavoka

Analysis:

Four senior members of SODELPA are expected to give Sitiveni Rabuka his toughest challenge for the party leadership contest.

It is understood that when applications closed yesterday the four, Viliame Gavoka, Ratu Jone Navakamocea, Pio Tabaiwalu and Aseri Radrodro were on the list.

They bring to the party their own unique strength at a difficult time when a fragile unity exists after the bitter split between the conservative right-wing and the moderates.

All four believe it is time for a change in leadership because caretaker party leader Mr Rabuka has had his opportunity but he failed to win the 2018 General Election. He failed as Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) leader in the 1999 General Election when he went into coalition with the Jai Ram Reddy’s National Federation Party and suffered a humiliating loss to Mahendra Chaudhry’s Fiji Labour Party. Mr Chaudhry became the first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.

Mr Rabuka lost again in the 2001 election which signalled the end of the SVT. The late Laisenia Qarase’s Soqosoqo ni Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) won that election and the subsequent one in 2006.

Mr Rabuka wandered in the political wilderness until 2014 when he unsuccessfully tried to get in as party leader.  Ro Teimumu stood in the way. But Mr Rabuka resurfaced in 2016 and succeeded in securing the party leader role after Ro Teimumu was forced to step down by a party constitutional change that required the party leader to relinquish the position after an election loss. He now has a different interpretation, contending that the constitution is silent on re-election.

Of his four challengers, MP Mr Gavoka tops the list. He has developed as a mature politician in his second term and accumulated enough knowledge, skills and experience to ascend to the top job.

He is articulate and probably the best debater on the Opposition side.

Ratu Jone Navakamocea is not a stranger to politics. He was an Assistant Minister for National Planning in the late Mr Qarase’s government after the 2006 election.

After the takeover later that year Ratu Jone joined PM Bainimarama’s interim government as Minister for Local Government and Urban Development.

Mr Tabaiwalu, a party pioneer and staunch member of the party. He is well versed with the party operations having worked as its first general secretary. He has not been given enough credit for his contribution since day one. But he can lead if given the opportunity.

MP Mr Radrodro, the youngest of the four, has grown to be well respected by party members for his down to earth and principled stand on issues. He has the backing of the youths and senior members too reflected by those who signed his endorsement. He can relate well to the youths on one side, the older folks and the Vanua of Naitasiri. He has the ability to reach out across the racial divide.

Prominent names who are understood to have applied for the deputy leader role include Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya and Suva lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo.

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