7 Dec 2020

Fiji's opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka resigns as member of Parliament

2:40 pm on 7 December 2020

Fiji's Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka has resigned as a Member of Parliament.

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka.

Opposition Leader Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: Supplied/Fiji Parliament

Rabuka made the announcement while delivering his response to the opening address by the President Jioji Konrote in Parliament this morning.

The former Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) leader said his resignation as a member of Parliament would make way for the president to ask the prime minister to work with the new leader of the opposition and members of the opposition.

Opposition whip Lynda Tabuya said she supported Rabuka's move.

Rabuka and Tabuya had both contested the party leader and deputy positions last week respectively but lost.

Nadroga MP Viliame Gavoka and Suva lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo won the leadership contest.

Rabuka said he could not continue as opposition leader and an MP because the prime minister did not trust him enough to work with him.

He urged the government to work with the Gavoka and members of the opposition to take the country forward.

"I hereby, Mr speaker sir, tender my resignation as a member of this House representing the people of Fiji to make way for his excellency the president.

"I ask the prime minister work with the new leader of opposition and the members of the opposition and take us forward.

"I will no longer be an obstacle to the bipartisan approach to be taken by the leaders of Fiji to create harmony and progress and unity in Fiji and I with respect, Mr speaker sir, tender my resignation from Parliament, thank you sir."

Rabuka urged all SODELPA supporters to continue to remain loyal to the party.

Gavoka 'shocked'

Gavoka said he was shocked by Rabuka's announcement and had sought an explanation.

Gavoka said SODELPA needed Rabuka.

Just last week, the new SODELPA leader said he was confident heading to the 2022 general election with his predecessor by his side.

"He has indicated he will stay and of course we need heavy hitters in SODELPA," Gavoka said following his appointment as SODELPA leader.

"We met prior to the opening of Parliament and we met afterwards.

"I'm honoured that I have him on my side. When you're marching to victory, you need the firepower and he brings that firepower.

"We need him on our side. Rabuka is an icon, he is a giant in Fijian politics and he is going to be with us in 2022."

Rabuka told reporters outside Parliament he would return home to try and figure his next move.

But he said he would remain as a member of SODELPA.

"That will have to be decided I will have to hear from the Party about what's going on. I cannot form a new party now I am still the member of the Party (SODELPA). I have resigned from the Parliament."

SODELPA MP Mosese Bulitavu said Rabuka had done the "honourable thing".