Internal Discord In Fiji Opposition Party Heats Up

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SODELPA reportedly faces resignations over leadership report

By Nemani Delaibatiki

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Aug. 19, 2015) – Fiji Opposition party SODELPA faces mass resignations from its North officials if it fails to start an inquiry into a confidential report by Friday.

Outspoken MP and lawyer Mosese Bulitavu, in an email to the party yesterday, disclosed the threat. He said they would join him to resign on Friday as he had promised if his demand was not met.

The dramatic turn of events came at the end of a day which saw Opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa concede that SODELPA’s management board would now handle investigations into the report. Since the Fiji Sun exposed the report last week, Ro Teimumu and her inner circle of loyalists had been lobbying frantically behind the scenes to stop the report from reaching the management board.

Now she and others named in the report would be summoned to answer questions by the board.

She told a caucus meeting at the Opposition Office in Suva because the issue was with the management board that there would be no discussion about the report. Instead the MPs talked about issues for next week’s sitting of Parliament.

But party dissidents in Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata (CBM) who support Mr Bulitavu want the management board to meet this week. But this is unlikely because party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu is still in Australia. He is the chairperson of the management board.

A number of fundraising dinners on his behalf have been arranged to the end of the month.

Party general secretary Pio Tabaiwalu had earlier indicated that Ratu Naiqama could return next week. Repeated attempts to contact him in Sydney failed.

It is understood that party supporters, rocked by the row, are shielding him from the media. If Ratu Naiqama is not back in time, one of the two vice-presidents Dona Takalaiyale and Ratu Lote Yavuca can chair the meeting. Mr Takalaiyale is likely to be ruled out because of conflict of interest. He is Ro Teimumu’s traditional spokesperson (matanivanua).

It looks like it will point to Ratu Lote. Mr Tabaiwalu would have to initiate the change after consulting with Ratu Naiqama in Australia.

Mr Bulitavu is not happy. He boycotted the caucus meeting yesterday because Ro Teimumu had not resigned like he had demanded. His other four allies, Semesa Karavaki, Aseri Radrodro, Ro Kiniviliame Kiliraki and Mikaele Leawere attended in case the report was raised.

In his email to the party, Mr Bulitavu said: "Given the situation, the President cannot act (for some reason) that brings the Constitution to a standstill.

"GS (General Secretary) must convene the management board with the vice- President and see that an investigation committee is appointed with terms of reference immediately.

"My seven days deadline as publically said on Friday last week to resign still stands."

Caucus had met today and the Opposition leader told members that the complaint will be dealt by the Party, she then moved on to discuss matters for next week’s sitting.

"It is now public knowledge that I have challenged her and that I have demanded for her and others in the Opposition office to resign. It is clear that she does not want to step down.

"GS cannot be awaiting the President to give instructions. It is now a state of emergency within the party.

"By Friday, 21 August given the situation the Opposition leader does not want to resign voluntarily with her appointed staffs (who have not been recruited in the normal selection process with no consultation, so they need to leave now) and the party does not establish the investigation committee, I will resign.

"The Management Board must sit without Sakiusa Raivoce and others who have intentions to dismiss the allegations against Hon. Ro Teimumu Kepa. The Opposition staffs must stand down for now as we cannot afford money from government being used anymore for their salaries. If they are still in office and still being paid from the SODELPA OPPOSITION bank account which holds funds for constituency visits then we will be seen to be allowing … to continue. The Opposition leader given that these public funds is now publically known to be funding the opposition staffs salaries and other expenses, she should instruct the bank to freeze the account. A law abiding citizen will do that.

"It is no doubt that the government grant has been used not for the purpose it was given under the law. It has been used otherwise, in a manner that never the intent of the law that created the government grant.

"The other allegations stated by Gaunavinaka can be investigated separately by the Party because it deals with the conduct of a member of the Party. On the issue of the bank statement, it is an issue on its own and that only takes a reasonable person to figure out.

"This is supposed to be a simple and truthful explanation but what troubles me, is that she cannot say "I was wrong."

"The mandate I have from the SODELPA Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata office that I should not back down and demand that the Opposition leader and her staffs resign pending investigation.

"I have been meeting party officials in Labasa and they have been briefed on the situation’s progress daily.

"I would like to reiterate that if the Opposition leader does not resign and the party does not act by Friday 21 August, I resign and all CBM SODELPA officials will resign from the party.

"I will hold a press release to announce my resignation, reasons for my resignation, thank my voters (they have been coming to the Labasa office daily in support of my stand) and file a formal complaint with FICAC.

"I as a private citizen then can call on the government to expedite the investigation.

"On Sunday, night Hon. Salote Radrodro called me and said that my air fare will be paid to be present at a caucus on Thursday, 20 August. Hon. Dulakiverata called me the following day and I asked him, who is paying my fare. He told me the Opposition office, I said to him, if my fare is paid from the SODELPA OPPOSITION bank account I will not come because that is the very fund that I am questioning.

"I just showed the Opposition leader, that I cannot accept … and that I am a law abiding citizen who took oath to uphold the trust of those who have sent us to Parliament.

"We need an atmosphere that will enable the transfer of good leadership to our future generations."

Questions sent to the Opposition Office had not been answered when this edition went to press.

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