The PAP/NFP/SODELPA coalition is in doubt as factions within SODELPA challenge the legality of the multi-party formation.
Despite the latest development, the coalition is pushing on with their meeting, in Fiji’s capital city of Suva this hour, to iron out the terms of its coalition.
SODELPA’s outgoing general secretary Lenaitasi Duru claims that two of the 16 people who voted in favour of the PA/NFP/SODELPA coalition did not have voting powers, and as such deemed the 16-14 outcome “null and void”, assertions that the party’s coalition lead negotiator and former MP Anare Jale dismissed saying that it was Duru who vetted the quorum including the two whose voting powers he is questioning.
“Majority cannot say it is the majority, because some of those sitting there were not supposed to be voting. I am working for SODELPA. I am the authorized person of the party to ensure that the party does not …go into any illegal activity…and caught up in noncompliance issues,” Duri said in a press conference this afternoon at their HQ in Suva denying that he was acting in the interest of those favouring FijiFirst.
Statements that Jale, who was also at the SODELPA HQ today for party talks which Duru was also part of, is disputing insisting that Duru “was the one who verified that the quorum was legal and those people who were there were valid candidates.”
“SODELPA is not turning back, the country is not turning back; we are moving forward…The decision yesterday was final. It was properly done. If somebody is saying it was done illegally, then that person has to prove it. He wants to take the party to court. He is acting as an individual. He said the management board has all the authority to make a decision on whether they should sit in the meeting or not.”
Duru said he had sought legal advice including that of the political parties registrar as well as local lawyers who backed his assertions, and as such acted in the best interest of the party in writing to the President of Fiji Ratu Wiliame Katonivere asking him to defer the swearing-in of MPs on this basis.
Expectations were that Ratu Wiliame will set the date for the Fijian Parliament’s first sitting early this morning after the coalition party wrote to him following last night’s announcement.
However, this did not eventuate. A statement from the Fijian Parliament today only said: “once the proclamation summoning parliament to meet is issued by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Fiji, the Parliament will then have its first sitting. Section 67(1) of the Fijian Constitution.
Whether the delay is a consequence of Duru’s letter, Fiji’s August House did not say.
Meanwhile, the coalition parties appear unfazed by the latest development, going ahead with their meeting at the Tanoa Hotel in Suva to finalise their coalition agreement.
Duru tendered his resignation yesterday as well following the conclusion of the management board’s talks. He gave a 30-day notice insisting that as such means he remains the GS and the authorised officer of the party until 20 January 2023.
The management board met for more than eight hours behind closed doors at a heavily guarded Yue Lai Hotel on Tuesday 21 December during which they heard from People’s Alliance, then FijiFirst before making their announcement later that evening. Lead negotiator Anare Jale made the announcement around 7 pm that PA/NFP were their partner of choice to form the next Fijian Government.
Of the 30 management board members present, 16 voted for the PA/NFP and 14 opted for FijiFirst.
Celebrations erupted around Suva and the West soon after Jale disclosed their decision with people taking to the streets honking their cars as a show of approval.
PA was represented by NFP Leader Professor Biman Prasad, PA’s deputy leader Manoa Kamikamica, GA Sakiasi Ditoka, and campaign manager Di Vuki Qionibaravi whilst FijiFirst was represented by Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
Leba Qarase, the wife of the late Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, founder of SDL now known as SODELPA, was also at the venue to offer her support whilst talks ensued.
Barricades also littered the streets of Suva yesterday during the meetings which were happening alongside the induction of the 55 MPs’ aimed to prepare them for the first parliamentary sitting. The day was also marked by the detainment of SODELPA candidate Jope Koroisavou for petitioning support in favour of the PA/NFP/SODELPA coalition. He was reportedly released without any charges laid.