Analysis | Politics

SODELPA Slipping Back To Old Culture And Practices?

SODELPA appears to be falling back to its old culture and practices. The Working Committee and Management Board meetings last week failed to live up to expectation. They both failed
28 Sep 2020 11:25
SODELPA Slipping Back To Old Culture And Practices?
Tanya Waqanika and Ro Filipe Tuisawau.

SODELPA appears to be falling back to its old culture and practices.

The Working Committee and Management Board meetings last week failed to live up to expectation.

They both failed to resolve disputes over the conduct of a number of constituency council annual general meetings (AGMs).

The disputes were first referred to the Working Committee to review on Thursday and report to the Management Board on Saturday.

President Ratu Epenisa Cakobau chaired the start of the committee meeting but left for another engagement.

MP Ro Teimumu Kepa, a vice-president, then chaired the remainder of the meeting.

It is not clear what the meeting decided, but SODELPA caretaker party leader Sitiveni Rabuka disclosed on Saturday after the board meeting that some members were not happy that the committee failed to reach a decision about the grievances. The board decided to appoint committees and arbiters to address the matter.

It appears none of those in leadership wants to touch the disputes which hit at the very core of the division between the moderates and the conservative right wing.

If they do not watch it the party could slip back to the old practices pre-2018.

How many committees and arbiters do they need before they can resolve these disputes?

Whatever they do, their guiding document is the party constitution. They are just complicating matters when they shift the burden of responsibility to fix the problem to new committees.

The Working Committee was set up to carry out any due diligence regarding any issue before submitting its report to the board.

It is up to the board to ratify the report or decide an alternative course of action. In this case there was no committee decision.

If they follow the provisions of the constitution they should not fear making the right and sometimes hard and sensitive decisions – decisions when challenged in court or by the Registrar of Political Parties will stand the test.

This is the hallmark of good governance.

The party had made a commitment to uphold the principles of good governance when it emerged from its suspension. This was after the High Court highlighted breaches of the constitution and ruled that the AGM in Yaroi Village, Savusavu, null and void and therefore invalid.

The party had turned good governance up side down and the cumultive effect was that it lost the 2018 General Election.

Let’s look at two cases which the committee and the board failed to resolve and passed the buck to committees to be set up to look at the disputes.

Nasinu Constituency AGM

The party secretariat claims that the election of Opposition Whip Lynda Tabuya as president of the Nasinu Constituency Council at its AGM recently was invalid. This is because secretariat officials were not present. The constitution requires that the secretariat conducts and supervises the election of office bearers. If this is true, it is a clear case of breach.

Ms Tabuya has challenged the secretariat’s decision on grounds that have not been disclosed. Just about everyone knows that Ms Tabuya is popular in the area particularly in informal settlements around Wakanisila.

Are the leaders worried that any decision against Ms Tabuya could affect the party support?

She is in the moderates camps as those in the secretariat but she has a soft spot for Mr Rabuka (conservative right wing) because he had made it possible for her and Vijay Singh to join SODELPA from the People’s Democratic Party through a deal he brokered.

The second case is the controversial Ba West Constituency Council AGM which was won by the moderates. Ba West was previously held by the right wingers. MP Ro Filipe and Tui Nadi Ratu Vuniyani Navuniuci had lodged an official complaint with party HQ and recommended that the election outcome be stayed.

It is not hard to determine whether the constitution was followed to the letter of the law.

If it was, then both AGMs should be validated. If it wasn’t, then fresh elections should be called

No other considerations should be allowed except for the requirements of the constitution.

This was not the ideal start that Ratu Epenisa was hoping to achieve.

If he and his team fail to show decisive leadership the road ahead could be a turbulent one.

At stake here is their credibility.


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