|Ro Teimumu Kepa: Leading the way for SDL|
The last political party to be voted in democratically as government in Fiji, has settled on a new name: Social Democratic Liberal party. It was mooted by the party's patron, Ro Teimumu Kepa, at Friday's special meeting of the National Assembly in Suva. We print here some of her speech to the party, which started with salutations to party president Solomoni Naivalu who was unwell and party leader, Laisenia Qarase, who is serving his year term in Korovou jail.
Last Meeting of the Sogosogo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party
Today's meeting is a very important one for our party.It will be the last time that we will be meeting under the banner of the SoqosoqoDuavataniLewenivanua as a Political Party.We have been issued with a decree by the Military Regime (Decree No.4 of 2013 titled ,Political Parties (Regisration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) which among others things, compels us to change our name into an English one. This means that no party including our own, can be registered under a Fijian name.
Language as Embodiment of Culture, Knowledge and Traditions
Let me make it very clear, this is not my wish nor it is that of the Executives, nor the members and supporters of the Party both here and abroad.It appears to me that the Fijian language that embodies the name of the Party, a language that is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, and recognized by all the Constitutions of Fiji including the Yash Ghai Draft, as one of the three national languages in Fiji, is supposedly, not good enough to provide a name to a political Party under this Decree.
As now Patron of the Party and one of its founders, you can imagine how I feel when the language of our ancestors with its rich tradition ,culture and history in Fiji, is treated as irrelevant and inadequate in terms of the requirements of the Political Parties Decree No.4, 2013.
Main Purpose of the Meeting
The main purpose of this Meeting therefore is to inform the General Assembly and thereby all the members and supporters of the Party that we are required to have a new name in English within a period of 28 days, which according to the Decree expires on the 14th of February,2013.
Naturally, the first option open to us was to pick a new name in English but this would require an amendment to the Constitution of the Party of 2008.This would not be possible given the time limit of 28 days as the Party Constitution requires a period of notice of 30 days for the General Assembly in order to be able to do this legally. There is also no provision for extension of time, in terms of the Decree. The Party would be taking a major risk if it were to follow this option.
Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), was considered a better option as the period provided for that in the relevant decree, was longer and more open, under the requirements of the Decree.
In the light of these considerations, we are here today to discuss the dissolution of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua as well as the voluntary winding up of its assets in accordance with the provisions of the Party Constitution.
Dissolution of the Party and its Contributions to Politics in Fiji.
But for many of us, irrespective of what will happen in the future ,the passing of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua marks a major era in politics. It represents a time of national pride and a time of re-examining our relationship with our colonial partners. It marks a period in our history when indigenous peoples all over the world begin to assess and evaluate the contributions of their colonial heritage as against their own heritage and resources, as well as have come to live in our midst.
Many of these issues will continue to be addressed and we will no doubt be guided by the international conventions and declarations such as the ILO Convention169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples,1989; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007; Human Rights Conventions ,1948, among others. This awakening and renaissance is made possible in multi-ethnicsocieties through a greater acceptance of democracy, social justice, non-discrimination and the rule of law.
Remembering the Sogosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua
Let us spare a moment for the period of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua.The name itself which many who do not speak Fijian may not appreciate fully because, it is an inclusive name that refers to all the people irrespective of who they are in society and who come together through living and working together .It was coined in stark contrast to the name Soqosoqoni Vakatulewani Taukei (SVT) which was aimed at those in the exclusive.
The Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, was formed in 2001 very quickly in response to the call for elections following the labour-led Peoples Coalition Government's reluctance to form the Government after their successful challenge in the Court in what was known as the Chandrika Prasads Case.It won two successive elections despite being accused and criticized by a number of Parties of corruption, and they went on and formed the Government with the support of the Matanitu Vanua Party after the 2001 elections ,and the Fiji Labour Party, after the 2006 elections, both under the leadership of Hon. Laisenia Qarase.
Challenges for the New Party
The end of a party will see the beginning of another. The new Party has so much to draw from out of the experience of the two SOL led Governments, one of which was untimely deposed in 2006.There is some noticeable shift to the centre in our focus and policies as reflected in the 2008 Party Constitution .This broadens our democratic base, and our commitment to multicultural policies and appeal.At the same time we need to maintain our commitment to improve the urban poor.
We have huge plans but first we must meet the registration requirements and for this we must be prepared to work and restore Fiji as a shining example of a progressive democratic and peaceful country respected by Pacific nations and the international community.
Although we come here today to bury and say farewell to our old party, but in doing that we are building in its place an even stronger and vibrant party and we appeal to all our loyal supporters out there to receive and provide support to our volunteers who will be coming around and seek their help and support in the registration process of a new Party.
So this for us today, to paraphrase Winston Churchill 'it is not the end;it is not the beginning of the end, it is only the end of the beginning'.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your support and in helping to build a party for the Future.