SODELPA in suspension, out of Parliament for 60 days

Fiji’s Registrar of Political Parties has suspended the main opposition party, SODELPA (in suspension), for 60 days.

The suspension, effective immediately, prohibits party MP’s from participating in parliament for the remainder of this week’s May sitting and the next 60 days.

Making the announcement in Suva today, Registrar Mohammed Saneem also put the suspended party on notice of possible deregistration if it does not address governance issues deemed in breach of the Act.

“It cannot operate, function or represent or hold itself out to be a political party therefore prohibits its members to participate in parliament, effective now,” Saneem said.

Saneem said he has notified the leader of the party, highlighting reasons for the suspension, among these dispute over office bearers, governance issues and issues relating to the party’s constitution.

On the issue of the party’s constitution which the FEO was relying on for verification purposes, Saneem said his office was told there were six versions in circulation as opposed to three in FEO’s official records.

“It is now not clear which is the most accurate and up to date version of the SODELPA Constitution. It is unfortunate that the most important document of the Party was defective when submitted to the Registrar. This needs to be rectified without delay,” Saneem said.

Saneem also revoked two separate list of office bearers submitted to his office by the party’s two disputing groups after findings that the management board meetings in which the appointees were made did not meet the party’s own constitution including the required quorum.

Two separate meetings to appoint office bearers were convened on Saturday, May 23, one by former General Secretary Litia Qionibaravi at Khastriya Hall and the other by Vice President Vijay Singh at the Holiday Inn.

“Both meetings appear to have deficiencies that cannot support the Constitutionality of the Meetings. The Registrar does not wish to be party to breaching the Constitution of the Party. The Registrar finds that SODELPA has failed to conduct the Management Board Meeting as per its Constitution and therefore both the particulars submitted by the Party cannot be accepted.”

Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem

Saneem said in line with a high court ruling in April this year, FEO recognises Sitiveni Rabuka as party leader and Singh as VP out of the list of names submitted to its office. Accordingly, the party needed to appoint persons to the vacant positions of president, general secretary, treasurer and registered officer and thereafter submit these names to the Registrar as required under the Act.

Following the court ruling, the FEO gave the party 30 days, which expires tomorrow May 27, to provide its updated list of office bearers.

However, Saneem said the party’s inability to unanimously appoint office bearers to support its application under section 11 of the Act, on the eve of the May 27 deadline, “constitute a breach of the Act.”

“The Registrar, under section 19(1)(a) of the Act, may de-register a party which has contravened any section of the Act. In applying Section 19 of the Act, I hereby put SODELPA on notice that it will be deregistered should it not remedy the breach /contravention. SODELPA is given 60 days within which it is required to remedy the breach/contravention or otherwise show cause why the party should not be deregistered. As per section 19(3) of the Act, SODELPA is hereby suspended for 60 days with immediate effect to allow compliance.”

Registrar of Political Parties Mohammed Saneem

The party is also required to inform the registrar the course of action it intends to take to remedy the breach.

Registrar of Political Parties at the FEO Office in Toorak, Suva today

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