Chaudhry had sought to discipline the "Gang of Five" - Krishna Datt, Poseci Bune, Felix Anthony, Agni Deo Singh and Atu Emberson-Bain - who had defied his authority by supporting the post May 2006 election multi-party Cabinet, led by Laisenia Qarase; Bune, Datt and Atu Bain were expelled from the FLP
Petitioning President of the Social Democratic Liberal Party and 2 others SODELPA Fiji remove Mosese Bulitavu and Aseri Radrodro from Parliament NOW
Freedom Hope Glory Fiji
The Management Board of SODELPA asked persons close to the Leader of Opposition to eject themselves from the Board, and they opted to pardon Bulitavu. Before this, Bulitavu was calling for the Opposition Leader to Resign for accusations he made against her!
It has come to our attention via a relative of a wife of a MP, that Hon. Aseri Radrodro has been meeting with Attorney General, and working to remove Hon. Biman Prasad from the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
Hon. Biman is the choice of the Leader of Opposition and by working to remove him is a breach of Party lines also.
Below is a STATEMENT FROM RO TEIMUMU KEPA
DISCIPLINARY COMMITTEE REPORT
Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa today broke her silence on the ongoing issue of the Mosese Bulitavu, Aseri Radrodro led Gaunavinaka report.
Ro Teimumu said she attended the SODELPA Management Board meeting held on Saturday 5th December when the Disciplinary Committee tabled its final determination and recommendations on the Bulitavu, Radrodro Gaunavinaka Report.
Ro Teimumu said Mosese Bulitavu, Aseri Radrodro and others made damaging and false accusations against her and others with their discredited document.
The Disciplinary Committee involves senior members of the party and the lawyer in the group is a respected member of the legal fraternity. The following is what the Committee recommended:-
On financial mismanagement, the members reaffirmed that the claims were false and unsubstantiated, and dismissed all allegations against me, Hon Ratu Isoa Tikoca, Hon Salote Radrodro, Laufitu Malani and Mick Beddoes.
They recommended the expulsion of Hon Mosese Bulitavu.
That is essentially what the Executive Summary of the report spelt out.
Compare the facts of the Executive Summary that I have outlined with the official statement issued by the General Secretary of SODELPA and it becomes obvious that certain officials in the party have for reasons best known to them, hidden the truth from our people.
This is totally unacceptable and it goes against the basic principles and values of the party and sadly these elements were missing from the Management Board's decision and media release which were made without the concurrence of all of its members.
The Disciplinary Committee had full powers to make its recommendations and in the interests of justice and fairness and to maintain its impartiality the Management Board should have fully endorsed the recommendations.
After the tabling of the Disciplinary Committee’s report I, and others, who had been exonerated were asked to leave the meeting room.
What followed was the Management Board's 'pardon' of Hon Mosese Bulitavu for his reprehensible and disloyal behaviour. The pardon came after northern delegates threatened to leave SODELPA if Hon Bulitavu was expelled as recommended.
This decision by the Board is regrettable because they allowed themselves to be blackmailed. There is no evidence to indicate any of our accusers made any apology and neither had any of them shown remorse. Decisions made under 'threat' are flawed and compromised. Once this type of precedent is set, a political party exposes itself to further threats. It puts itself on a slippery slope.
No one is forced to become a member of SODELPA and neither are members forced to stay with the party. If they don't like the outcome of the party's Disciplinary Committee, they are free to resign.
SODELPA members have been looking forward to the resolution of the dispute involving the discredited allegations by Mosese Bulitavu, Aseri Radrodro and others. The Disciplinary Committee did the task entrusted to it.
However the Management Board’s actions in ignoring the recommendation on Hon Bulitavu has brought SODELPA into greater disrepute.
This ongoing disorder and dysfunctionality within the party executive must stop now, we cannot and must not allow disloyal members and disruptive elements to hold the entire party to ransom. The only benefactors to this deliberately created crisis continuing is Fiji First and we must all oppose this vigorously.
I call on all our loyal party supporters to rally behind us and help me bring about a change in SODELPA away from its current secretive, divisive and destructive stance to a more credible, accountable and transparent party.
Hon Ro Teimumu Kepa
By Victor Lal, in Fiji Sun Opinion Column, 2006 - 'Gang of Five'
By VICTOR LAL
The Chaudhrys (Mahendra and Rajendra), Mrs Jokapeci Koroi, along with Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi and others are guilty of contempt of court for flagrantly and arrogantly disregarding the rule of law in the country and should, therefore, be hauled before Justice Roger Coventry to explain their actions. The punishment for contempt ranges from hefty fines to imprisonment. What evidence is there to hold them for contempt over their ongoing determination to discipline the so-called ‘Gang of Five’ – Krishna Datt, Poseci Bune, Felix Anthony, Agni Deo Singh and Atu Emberson-Bain for undermining the FLP’s leadership.
In order to answer the above question, let us briefly examine the sequence of events. On the eve of the FLP National Council meeting in Ba, Rajendra Chaudhry appeared on behalf of his father and Mrs Koroi to inform Justice Coventry that the disciplinary charges against the five had been withdrawn. What he did on behalf of his clients was to give an undertaking to the High Court that as far as his father and Mrs Koroi were concerned, the matter was effectively and judicially closed. And yet, despite the undertaking, the matter of disciplining the five was raised and even voted upon at the National Council meeting. In the eyes of the law if a person who gives an undertaking to the court subsequently breaches any of the terms in it, he may be held in contempt of court and may be imprisoned, fined, or have his assets seized.
In this case, it is clear that since the issue of disciplining the five resurfaced at the Ba meeting and was even voted upon, both Mr Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi (including their lawyer Rajendra Chaudhry’s) actions are tantamount to contempt of court. But Rajendra Chaudhry has tendered an unconvincing explanation on behalf of his clients. He says the decision by the National Council to discipline the five Labour executives is not a contempt of court, for his father and Mrs Koroi ‘took no part in the disciplinary proceedings initiated by the Council’. Chaudhry junior said the two Labour leaders withdrew the charges against the five laid in July, and based on that fact, he was ‘fairly confident’ that the contempt of court issue would not stick. However, the fact of the matter is that both Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi allowed the matter to be discussed at all during the meeting.
There is no evidence to suggest that neither the two leaders nor Rajendra Chaudhry briefed the meeting of the undertaking that was given to Justice Coventry. That itself may even constitute a dereliction of duty on the part of Rajendra Chaudhry to advise his clients of the meaning and implication of the undertaking, and which could form a separate investigation by the Fiji Law Society for alleged professional misconduct. His father claims that the motion to discuss disciplinary action against the five was called by the Sigatoka and Lautoka branches. He also said he had not been served with the court order at the time of the Ba meeting. Why? Was it because is son, acting as the FLP lawyer had not, as legal convention requires, conveyed to his clients what had taken place in the High Court? Did Mahendra Chaudhry instruct his son to obtain a further clarification from Justice Coventry whether the matter could be discussed at all at the Ba meeting? After all, the FLP leader has a history of ‘high courts and boycotts’ when he feels there has been a breach of the law. It was not very long ago when Justice Coventry had thrown out his writ to stop the recent general election. The validity of the High Court undertaking is not in question.
It is quite clear that all three (the Chaudhrys and Mrs Koroi) are in contempt for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure that the undertaking was adhered to – a failure so gross as to demonstrate a disregard for the importance which should have been attached to the High Court undertaking. His clients walking out of the meeting when the matter of disciplining was raised is not a testimony to their commitment to the undertaking to the court. It is abundantly obvious that the walkout was all stage managed for the political underlings to take charge of the disciplinary process. Who called the Ba meeting? Who drew up the agenda for the meeting? Who authorised the handing over of the chairmanship of the meeting once Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi walked out?
What was, and what was not, to be discussed at the meeting? Let us look at their roles from a layman’s point of view, by presenting an alternative scenario. It was known, say, for sometime that a fierce row had been brewing between the ‘Gang of Five’ and Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi, with the two threatening to finish the five off with the cane knives if they ever visited Ba. But it was eventually decided to settle the row peacefully over rice and curry meal, to be witnessed by their friends and foes. The five than agreed to the invitation for meal provided the cane knives were not present in the house. Their lawyer, in order to reassure them, even appeared before a High Court judge and gave an undertaking that his clients had not only withdrawn their threats but had also banished the lethal cane knives. The five finally arrive at the house as planned. In the course of the meal, two of the guests suddenly pull out the cane knives to carry out the previous threats. Instead of stopping them, Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi, simply run out of the house. The five are murdered.
In their defence, the two claim that they took no part in the killings, even though they had called the five for the meal into the house, and had even assured the High Court. And in the next breath however they argue that although they had given an undertaken to the High Court that they would not wield the cane knives, they had never promised that other guests would not do so. In any case, when the cane knives were suddenly pulled out, they decided to walk out of the house. In the eyes of the law, their defence would be rejected, and they would be found guilty of conspiring to murder. After all, it was they who hosted the feast. It was they who had promised to banish the cane knives. It was therefore their duty to ensure that the cane knives were not present in the house nor any visitors were allowed to come with their own. What took place at the Ba meeting was nothing sort of a conspiracy to politically murder the ‘Gang of Five’.
It was a flagrant disregard of the implicit undertaking that was given to Justice Coventry. It was an attempt to dish out rough justice to the ‘Gang of Five’. It was contempt of court. Most jurists regard the rules embodied in the law of contempt of court as intended to uphold and ensure the effective administration of justice. In the words of the British jurist Lord Simons in the celebrated case of A-G v Times Newspapers Ltd (1974) they are the means by which the law vindicates the public interest in due administration of justice. The phrase ‘contempt of court’ consists in interfering with the administration of law, in impeding and perverting the course of justice. It does not, in the least, describe the true nature of the class of offence. There are two types of contempt of court: criminal and civil. In order to find out whether the Chaudhrys and Mrs Koroi are guilty of civil contempt, one has to take into account whether the civil contempt involved disobedience to a court order or breach of an undertaking given to the court in civil proceedings.
There is no doubt that by allowing the disciplinary proceedings to go ahead (the one in Ba and now later in Nadi), Mahendra Chaudhry and Mrs Koroi are, in my opinion, in contempt of court. The Ba meeting mirrors the events surrounding the dismissal of Mahendra Chaudhry as Prime Minister during the hostage crisis. The late President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, in order to assume emergency powers to deal with the hostage crisis, had dismissed Mr Chaudhry and appointed the former FLP Labour Minister Ratu Tevita Momoedonu in his place on 27 May 2000 so that Ratu Momoedonu could ‘advise’ the President to suspend Parliament and assume emergency powers. Upon tendering the requisite advice which took only a few minutes, Ratu Momoedonu promptly resigned.
On 14 March 2001, Ratu Momedonu was once again appointed as PM when the Appeals Court had ruled that the interim government was illegal, and had ordered the Mr Chaudhry’s 1999 government should be reinstated. The new President Ratu Josefa Iloilo instead re-appointed his nephew Ratu Momedonu in order for the latter to render his formal advice to the President to dissolve Parliament and call a general election, which duly took place. Mr Chaudhry bitterly condemned both the Presidents, describing their actions as nothing but legal backhands to deprive him of the Prime Ministership. What about the Ba meeting?
Democracy cannot flourish where one group is able to ride rough sod over the rule of law in the country. In Mahendra Chaudhry’s case, he has made the court his most popular legal hunting ground since 2000. It is time Justice Roger Coventry called him up to explain to the High Court and the nation why there should be two laws – one for the Labour leader, and one for others.
And if there is a contempt of court, he should not hesitate to dish out the severest punishment (even imprisonment) on Mahendra Chaudhry, and Mrs Koroi (and others who took part in the disciplinary proceedings and are still doing so) for failing to practice what they have been preaching the country to uphold – the rule of law and fair play.
By VICTOR LAL
In the confidential paper that Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, the Opposition backbencher and disputed FLP leader, circulated to the National Council meeting in Nadi, he raised a number of issues, among them a contentious point that there was an oversight in relation to the role of the Council as stipulated in Article 12 of the party’s Constitution. Article 12 reads as follows: ‘The National Council of the Party shall be the governing body in between each Annual Delegates Conference. In accordance with the powers delegated to it by the Delegates Conference, the National Council shall formulate and implement policy.’
In view of this, the National Council should have determined whether the FLP accepts the Prime Minister's invitation to join his government, Mr Chaudhry argued. He however wanted the oversight to be corrected. For what reason, Mr Chaudhry? Why now Mr Chaudhry? While hoping to read the riot act to his rebellious MPs, he also claimed: ‘But under Article 14 of the Party constitution the Management Board is only the administrative arm of the National Council. It cannot make policy decisions. This must be made clear to those members who claim that the management board must approve matters to be discussed by the National Council. This may be desirable, but it is certainly not mandatory.
In convening the meeting and than lecturing his MPs, Mr Chaudhry was digging his own political graveyard. But who will yield the mortal dagger? The deathblow, for reasons I will return to in a moment, will have to be Felix Anthony. Whether Mr Chaudhry will go of his own accord, is unclear. What is undeniable is that his political end is near. His greatest mistake has been that of a little boy who played with a wolf under the impression that it was a sheep – a pardonable zoological error, but apt to prove fatal to the player who makes it. In this instance, Mr Chaudhry has for too long thought that his FLP MPs were sheep who would meekly follow him. Of course, he still has several nanny goats, but he has now managed to antagonize some of the most powerful political wolves in the party – Felix Anthony, Poseci Bune and Krishna Datt.
Let us look at the question of party leadership. During the election Mr Chaudhry repeatedly claimed that he would be willing to become Prime Minister again if the FLP members chose him to lead the nation. Clearly, what he meant was that although he was the leader of the party, he was not the natural heir to the prime ministership. The question that arises now is whether he has been re-endorsed as party leader officially by the FLP management and caucus after the election. If he has not been endorsed, than he has no right to wag his finger and tell his rebellious MPs what to and what not to do in politics. He also has no right to submit the altered list of FLP senators.
In any event, you, Mr Chaudhry, instead of you ‘ordering your eight MPC MPs around’, you should explain to the nation and your own party why you lost two successive general elections. Please, none of those worn out ‘the election was not free and fair’. Moreover, you should have circulated at the recent FLP National Council Meeting in Nadi a paper explaining why you failed them, instead of the one you circulated on why and how the eight FLP MPs in the MCP should conduct themselves.
You are a ‘maharaja’ without a ‘dhoti’ – a political emperor without clothes. As I have argued previously, if you were a leader of a losing Opposition party in another country, by now you would have been banished into political oblivion. For God’s sake, you should simply take your FLP manifesto and ‘take a running jump’ – for that it is what the final election result seemed to have concluded. You, Mr Chaudhry, must understand that the voters rejected your leadership and your vision of Fiji, except those myopic and short sighted Indo-Fijians in the 19 communal seats, who will dearly pay in the long run for their ostrich-like mentality. As for the FLP, by 2011, the issue of Indo-Fijian tenancy will have lost its relevance, and it would be difficult to use it as a card to hold on to Indo-Fijian communal seats.
The Vice-President has spoken to you, indirectly, and on behalf of many of us. There must have been something so upsetting, irritating, or even frightening, that forced a person of Vice-President’s standing to break with tradition, and bluntly speak out. And yet, you, Mr Chaudhry, could only express surprise, saying you believe in the multi-party concept, otherwise you would not have permitted the eight FLP members to join it.
Now, you have again found refuge in ‘legaldom’. What about the concept of collective cabinet responsibility? Here, you say ‘we have to seek recourse from outside authorities to show that it is quite in order for a Labour member of the cabinet, and backbenchers, in the context of a multi-party cabinet to express opinions and adhere to policies that may be in conflict with that of the ruling party’. You said the Supreme Court in 2003 ruled in your favour on this specific issue where the party was entitled to go into Cabinet with its own policies and agenda.
If you are prepared to cite the legal ruling, why are you refusing to accept that you also bound yourself to the Korolevu Declaration, which says that a party that joins the multi-party Cabinet is no longer in the Opposition? You are legally no longer the Opposition party in Parliament. The law also said that Mr Beddoes was the rightful candidate to be Opposition leader. And yet you were claiming that, no, it had to be you.
You, Mr Chaudhry, now say that the FLP Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament are to be guided by party policies and principles when conducting themselves in the Lower House. You say that on any of these key issues all FLP members of Parliament, including ‘our ministers’ must be bound to vote along party lines. The FLP must come first.
Do you recall 1993? Where were your principles and preaching from the high political pulpit when you joined forces with the late Josevata Kamikamica, and six other Fijian members from the SVT who crossed floors to join you and the NFP, to vote down Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s 1994 national budget? Worst, you went on to write to the late President Ratu Mara asking him to have Mr Rabuka tender his resignation.
The renegades were expelled from the party, later forming the Fijian Association Party. In 1999, you formed a coalition with them, and went onto become Prime Minister until George Speight removed you from office. Why did you not say to Mr Kamikamica, ‘Hey, wait a minute. What you are doing is wrong. You cannot betray your party. I would not accept such behaviour from my own FLP MPs and, therefore cannot go along with you’. No, it neatly suited you. Hypocrisy and double standard has become your hallmark in politics, although politics is, after all, one long stab in the back.
If you are so concerned about Indo-Fijians plight, why did you throw a lifeline for Rabuka to continue as Prime Minister, which only prolonged their oppression and suffering? If you think affirmative action is discriminatory, why did you appoint your son as your private secretary on becoming Prime Minister in 1999? During the election you claimed that the appointment was made by the PSC. Yes, but you could have told them and your son that in the eyes of the world it will smack of nepotism. ‘My son, it is also discriminatory and unfair to other deserving Indo-Fijians who might qualify on merit for the job’, you could have told your son.
Did you or did you not alter the Senate list? And it is here that Felix Anthony could be your political nemesis. He has already, by refusing to go into Cabinet, consolidated his hold on the unions, leaving you isolated for support, except within the National Farmers Union. The former FLP parliamentarian Vijay Singh is now contemplating legal action against the party. He claims that an agreement was reached by the FLP management and signed between Mr Anthony and him to swap seats. He says you personally promised to send him to the Senate. The poor former senator is starring into a black hole, with a debt of $80,000 to pay?
But someone in the FLP has to pay for political treachery? Who betrayed whom? Was the list changed without any consultation with your fellow MPs as required by convention?
If one is to believe Mr Singh than one of you have to go: either it be Mr Anthony or you?
In jumping to your defence, your son and former private secretary Rajendra told your former Finance Minister Dr Ganesh Chand, indirectly so to speak, that he ought to keep quiet. Rajendra Chuadhry claimed the so-called academics were armchair critics who did not have an iota of political support. ‘Indeed many are twice/thrice defeated candidates or candidates who were not considered for selection in the 2006 general elections,’ he said.
It equally applies to you. Your son should bluntly tell you: ‘Daddy, you have lost two general elections, in a row, and you have no right to tell the Prime Minister what to do. You have no right to be the leader the Fiji Labour Party. You are a political loser, not once but twice.’
It however must fall on Mr Anthony to confront you. If not, he must give up his seat. He cannot enjoy parliamentary privileges on the back of alleged deception and treachery. That is if we are to believe Mr Singh.