Viliame Gavoka says he has no qualms about losing out to Tui Cakau Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu for the roles of party parliamentary leader and leader of the opposition, insisting that SODELPA remains on a sound footing to win the 2022 election.
Gavoka, who was recently appointed SODELPA leader, lost on votes 5-14 to Ratu Naiqama, which he told MaiTV reflects the factions that exist within the party, but believes the SODELPA brand is stronger than the discord that he is optimistic will be addressed moving forward.
Asked if he was worried over having two different voices leading party deliberations on either side of the parliamentary walls, Gavoka said it augurs well for him and the party to have an experienced hand in Rt Naiqama whom he will work closely with to ensure discipline and consistency in their messaging.
“I would expect discipline,” he said. “And I will make known to the leader of the opposition, to the caucus on what the party wishes to do in its journey towards 2022. We will be very clear on that.
“So, there is going to be a lot of synergy between me and Rt Naiqama to ensure that when we go out to campaign in 2022, people can see a lot of visibility in the messaging and inside Parliament and the discipline comes from both of us, from the party – me as the leader and him inside managing the parliamentarians.”
Gavoka also acknowledges that the party was ‘stunned’ over Rabuka’s resignation, but has since accepted the former LOP’s decision, adding that they are relying on the SODELPA brand coupled with other ‘firepower’ members such as the Roko Tui Dreketi Ro Teimumu Kepa and Ratu Naiqama to realise the party’s 2022 projections.
“The brand is key to all this,” Gavoka said. “The SODELPA brand is very strong. Then you bring in somebody with firepower to run with the brand, the votes will come, but important is the brand,” he said. “SODELPA brand is very, very important. I think if you look at 2014, the Gone Marama Bale on her first campaign under SODELPA managed to get almost 50,000 votes from nothing. The honorable Rabuka took it up from 50,000 to 77,000. The brand plus the firepower from the members.
“I believe we respect his [Sitiveni Rabuka] decision. He has stated his reason and he has decided to move on. And we respect that. And I think everyone in the party is grateful to him for what he has done for us.
“Things will be developing over the next few days and weeks. And I think the SODELPA brand is as strong as ever in spite of all these upheavals we’ve had over the last couple of weeks and months.”
Photo: Josefa Kotobalavu