The Prime Minister Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka issued this statement today in response to statements made by members of the SODELPA working committee on 20/1/24.
Hon. Aseri Radrodro terminated the appointment of the Chairperson and three (3) members of the Fiji National University (FNU) Council in May 2023. Thereafter, he was advised by the Solicitor General’s Office that the decision was unlawful and must be withdrawn.
Members of the FNU Council can only be terminated in limited circumstances and with a two-thirds majority vote of the Council during their meeting and only after the members have been provided an opportunity to be heard.
The Solicitor General also met with Hon. Radrodro to urge him to comply with the legal advice given. However, despite my very clear written directive and discussions with Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Manoa Kamikamica, Honourable Radrodro failed to comply with my directive.
Due Process and Dismissal of Hon. Radrodro
On Friday 19 January 2024, I took the decision to dismiss Hon. Radrodro from Cabinet with effect from Monday 22 January 2024 for insubordination and disobedience to my directive.
This decision was not made lightly and was taken only after due process had been followed. I had written three letters to Hon. Radrodro since September 2023 and held discussions with Hon. Viliame Gavoka, Deputy Prime Minister and Party Leader of SODELPA in October. I then wrote to Hon. Gavoka in early November with a follow up letter to Hon. Radrodro in December.
In addition, I have been advised by Hon. Kamikamica whilst he was Acting Prime Minister in May 2023, he requested the Solicitor General to provide him a copy of the legal opinion with regards to the termination of FNU Chair and Council Members.
He then called on Hon. Radrodro and advised him to comply with the legal advice from the Solicitor General. Hon. Radrodro assured the Acting Prime Minister that he would address the issue accordingly.
Communication with SODELPA
As Prime Minister, I do not have a direct conduit to SODELPA or its Management Board. The channel of communication is through the DPM and the SODELPA Party and Parliamentary Leader, Hon. Gavoka.
In November 2023, I requested Hon. Gavoka to raise my concern and disappointment with the SODELPA Management Board regarding:
(i) the failure of Hon. Radrodro to comply with the Fiji National University (FNU) Act in removing the Chairperson and three members of the FNU Council in May 2023; and
(ii) Hon. Radrodro’s failure to comply with legal advice from the Solicitor General for reinstatement of the Chairperson and three members of the FNU Council.
In that letter, I requested Hon. Gavoka to urge the SODELPA Management Board to consider taking action to ensure the unlawful decisions outlined above, are rescinded, as it could invite serious legal consequences for the Coalition Government.
Again, on Tuesday 15/1/24, I wrote to Hon. Gavoka reiterating my disappointment at the insubordination, disobedience and lack of response from Hon. Radrodro, and informed him that I would dismiss Hon. Radrodro from Cabinet and appoint him as Education Minister in addition to his current portfolio. The letter was transmitted by email on 16/1/24 since he is on official travel overseas.
Despatch of letters to Hon. Radrodro on Friday 19/1/24
I also wish to clarify that my public statement on the dismissal was published only after confirmation of the despatch of letters to Hon. Radrodro and His Excellency the President and Honorable Speaker on Friday 19/1/24. The letter to Hon. Gavoka was transmitted via email at the same time, as he is currently on official travel.
With regard to the Coalition Agreement, the three (3) Party Leaders of the Peoples Coalition have been meeting continuously over the last year. On 30/10/23, we discussed the insubordination and disobedience to my directive of Hon. Radrodro and agreed that Hon. Gavoka inform the SODELPA Management Board. I followed up with a letter to Hon. Gavoka on 3/11/23.
Decision of the SODELPA Working Committee of 20/1/24
It has been brought to my attention that the SODELPA Working Committee has issued instructions for Hon Radrodro to remain in the Ministry of Education until 26th January 2024.
I want to make it clear that the instruction by the SODELPA Working Committee is in defiance of the powers conferred on the Prime Minister under section 95(3)(a) of the Constitution. I am also advised that the instruction may also be in breach of the SODELPA Constitution given that it is only the Management Board that gives directives to its Members of Parliament, and not the Working Committee.
Hon. Radrodro’s dismissal is effective 22/1/24, and from that date, he may no longer exercise the powers and privileges of the Minister for Education. Hon. Gavoka assumes the Education portfolio as of that date. However, Hon. Radrodro may attend his former office to remove his personal items and Hon. Gavoka may request him for a handover-briefing on his return from official travel.
I have noted remarks made by the SODELPA working committee on 20/1/24. I respect the party’s commitment to its MPs and adherence to the SODELPA Constitution. However, Political Party by-laws are made under the Political Parties Act. The Act requires that Parties and their officials must comply with Fiji’s Constitution, the supreme law. SODELPA officials must also ensure that the working committee does not exceed its mandate in purporting to exercise powers of the management board as set out in its constitution.
I understand SODELPA’s perspective on the matter, and I assure the public that the decision to dismiss Hon. Radrodro was made after careful consideration of all relevant factors. The Constitution guides my actions, and I remain committed to upholding its principles.
Section 95 of the Constitution is very clear on the powers of the Prime Minister to appoint and dismiss Cabinet Ministers. It is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister. Therefore, the Employment Relations Act is not relevant at all. However, the principles of natural justice were adhered to and Hon. Radrodro was given every opportunity to explain himself yet failed to respond to correspondence from me on the matter. Furthermore, the SODELPA Party Leader, Hon. DPM Gavoka was fully informed of the action I took on the matter.
As we move forward, I urge all parties involved to conduct themselves with respect for due process and the rule of law. The progress of our great nation depends on our collective commitment to the rule of law and democratic values enshrined in our constitution.
I appreciate the public’s understanding and trust that we will navigate these challenges in the best interests of the people of Fiji.
Prime Minister of Fiji