3 Jul 2020

Rabuka says he's staying with Fiji's Sodelpa

6:26 am on 3 July 2020

Despite months of internal feuding over management issues, the leader of the Social Democratic Liberal Party in Fiji says he's staying with the party.

After 35 days in suspension over breach of political rules, Sitiveni Rabuka resumed office at the Opposition Chambers in Parliament this week.

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka.

Fiji's SODELPA leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Earlier Mr Rabuka had not ruled out forming a new party but now said he sought to unify Sodelpa and the factions that existed within what is Fiji's main opposition party.

"We can now concentrate on preparing for the (Budget) debate where we will again put forward the voice of the people who voted for us.

"It's a new board so they are bringing in new views. I will have to bear the pressure and fulfil the mandate (of the caucus) and continue as their parliamentary leader."

Mr Rabuka said while the decision by the electoral office to lift the suspension was a victory for Sodelpa, the time away was a "great lesson on the disadvantages of disunity and living on nothing".

Mr Rabuka's position as party leader had earlier been advertised along with the treasurer's role.

Call to change Sodelpa image

Mr Rabuka, a former prime minister, said the party must rise above personal differences.

He said Sodelpa's image needed to be redefined as many in Fiji were reluctant to support the party because of his nationalistic views expressed during the 1987 coups, which he instigated.

Mr Rabuka said the party must continue to do work because many people were relying on the party's principles which have greatly changed from the days of the nationalistic politics.

"Even the image of Sodelpa as an ethno-nationalistic party is a wrong one and some people did not come on board because they thought I was still the nationalist I was branded in 1987," he told the Fiji Times.

"They failed to realise the 1997 Constitution was achieved with the co-operation of the National Federation Party and the Fiji Labour Party in opposition."

Mr Rabuka said the 1999 General Election was fought with the National Federation Party as a coalition.

He said his prime ministership was supported by the Fiji Labour Party in 1992.

I've changed: Rabuka

Mr Rabuka said his image had changed since 1987 when he was branded a coup leader.

He said people did not realise that Sodelpa was a progressive and forward-looking, forward-thinking political party.

"I do not want to make too big an entry into the public media at the moment because it is still dominated by those who feel that they have won the battle."

Mr Rabuka said the party needed to make sure all its decisions in the future complied with the regulations and the law.