27 Jun 2013

Political party gears up for 2014 elections in Fiji

5:30 pm on 27 June 2013

The general secretary of the SODELPA party in Fiji says after being out of circulation for seven years, preparation for next year's elections will be a challenge logistically and financially.

The party is a reincarnation of the prominent SDL Party, which was officially dissolved earlier this year and renamed so it could comply with strict rules for political parties.

The SDL party was re-elected in 2006, but six months later ousted from power in the military coup.

The general secretary Pio Tabaiwalu says they have complied with all of the requirements under the Political Parties Decree, including submitting financial records, in order to register.

He told Bridget Tunnicliffe he's looking forward to seeing the same disclosures from the current regime.

PIO TABAIWALU: I think as public officers they should disclose. Not only the political aspirants, but as public officers, the public expects them to disclose even their salaries, assets and liabilities. So we have done that, and of course we are waiting for them to do likewise. They should have done that quite a while back.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Is there anything else you need to do as a party before you head into campaigning phase?

PT: Ah yes. We've been out of circulation for, what, seven years, nearly seven years now. We have to go back and start setting up our branches through the country in preparation for the election. So we're doing that straightaway. The logistic effort is quite extensive - we have to travel the island. The logistical problem of trying to travel throughout the country and the cost of doing it. We are a little party and we're trying to collect funds along the way as we're doing it. So that's the difficulty we are facing at the moment.

BT: When you do ramp up your election campaign, do you feel like you'll be able to campaign freely, or will there still be restraints on what you can say and what you can do?

PT: I think we have quite clearly said to give us a fair climate in preparation for the elections. We wanted a government body to oversee the elections - that's the first thing that we want, so that it's free and fair and we're free to say what we want, OK? So we are waiting for them to do that, but they should have done that quite a while back. We've heard from them that they are going to put in an independent body in to oversee it, but let's see whether that comes to fruition. But at the moment we are pretty stifled by some of the (Indistinct). There's still a whole lot of people out there who are not free to speak their views at the moment, and we're trying to break down those barriers as we go along.

BT: Is the party open to working with other parties under the umbrella group United Front For A Democratic Fiji? Do you think that could be a good tactic to have a real impact if we do see elections go ahead?

PT: Oh, yes. Especially the major parties. We are all working under that umbrella of the UFDF for the purposes of Fijian democracy. So we are working at two levels - as we are working now on our own individual structure, we are also working at a United Front level, especially as we try to forge ahead with bringing this country to democratic rule. That's the objective.