Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry today made public the truth surrounding the controversy over whether Vijay Singh was promised a Senate seat.
At a press conference in Suva, Mr Chaudhry responded to allegations by five dissident senior members of the FLP that he had reneged on a pre-election promise to give a Senate seat to former Vuda MP Vijay Singh.
Mr Chaudhry reiterated that he had made no such promise and for the first time disclosed the story behind the issue. His statement to the Media outlining what happened is reproduced in full:
“There has been considerable hype over claims by the dissident five in the Labour Party – Poseci Bune, Krishna Datt, Atu Bain, Agni Deo Singh and Felix Anthony that I as Party Leader had given a commitment to the FLP management board that Vijay Singh would be nominated to the Senate.
There was no such commitment or promise. On my return from Hong Kong, at the time when this controversy was at its peak, I had told the media that there was a story behind this saga and that it would be revealed at the appropriate time. I believe the time is now right for the nation to know the facts.
It is a pre-election story going back to the selection of FLP candidates for the Lautoka seats. I had, at the beginning, asked Felix Anthony to consider contesting the Lautoka City Indian Communal seat vacated by Dr Ganesh Chand, but he declined. Jai Shree Gawander was then endorsed
My recommendation to the management board was that for the Vuda constituencies, both sitting MPs Vyas Deo Sharma and Vijay Singh be endorsed as candidates for their current seats: Sharma for the Vuda Indian Communal seat and Singh for the Vuda Open seat. This recommendation was made by me following wide consultations with the people in Vuda.
The FLP management board met just a few days before nomination day to put its final seal on candidates.
At this critical stage, at the 11th hour, Krishna Datt threw the spanner in the works by moving that Felix Anthony be endorsed for the Vuda Open seat.
I objected to this and pointed out that this was in breach of Party procedures as Felix Anthony had not applied for a seat. However, certain members of the Management Board insisted that Felix Anthony be given the Vuda Open seat and that Mr. Vyas Deo Sharma be removed and Vijay Singh be given the Vuda Indian Communal Constituency seat.
I disagreed and pointed out that the inclusion of Felix Anthony at the last minute, and that too without an application, was causing unnecessary problems, and I again recommended that the two sitting MPs be endorsed.
It was clear to me that in all this the casualty was to be Vyas Deo Sharma. Felix Anthony, who himself had breached Party rules regarding his own candidature, put a condition that if he was given the Vuda Open seat, he wanted Vijay Singh to be his running mate.
I did not agree and pointed out that he could not dictate to the Board. As far as I was concerned, Vyas Deo Sharma’s seat was not in question and he should not be unjustly penalised. I told Board members that if they insisted on perpetrating this injustice against Vyas Deo Sharma, they would have to look for another Leader. I would not tolerate injustice in the Party.
It was obvious to me that some Board members were ganging up against Vyas Deo Sharma, claiming that he was unpopular in the constituency and may not win. That claim was later proven to be totally without substance following Sharma’s victory at the polls, with 85% of the total valid votes cast!
In the end Felix Anthony was endorsed for the Vuda Open seat and Vyas Deo Sharma for the Vuda Indian Communal Constituency seat.
Some members of the Management Board then recommended that Vijay Singh be nominated to the Senate but I pointed out that this was the prerogative of the Leader and the Management Board had no role in it. These Board members then requested that consideration be given to Vijay Singh being appointed to the Senate. This was where the matter stood. There were no promises and no undertakings.
Nor were any commitments made to the electorate. In all the consultation and discussions held with FLP supporters in Vuda for the selection of candidates for the Vuda Open and Vuda Indian Communal constituencies, there was no talk about Senate appointments.
No one was informed or promised by me that Vijay Singh would be appointed to the Senate. Talks at these discussions centred on which candidates should be selected for the two Vuda constituencies.
In fact, I had advised Vijay Singh, at a meeting I had with him at the Waterfront Hotel, not to give up his seat to Felix Anthony. But he said he would abide by the Management Board’s decision presumably because he was given a promise by the five dissidents that they would deliver him the Vuda Indian Communal seat.
Several questions emerge from this controversy:
1. Why did Poseci Bune, Krishna Datt, Atu Bain, Agni Deo Singh and Felix Anthony insist on giving the Vuda Open seat to Anthony without an application? This was in breach of the FLP Constitution which requires applications to be submitted by all intending candidates.
2. Why did these people promise Vijay Singh that in return for giving up his Vuda Open seat to Anthony they would secure him the Vuda Indian Communal Constituency Seat?
3. Why was it so important to bring Felix Anthony into the House of Representatives in breach of the Party constitution and, at the cost of injustice towards another sitting MP?
The five failed in their bid because I would not put up with injustice against Vyas Deo Sharma, or any other member for that matter. They now find themselves in the unsavoury position of not being able to deliver on a promise that they had no right to make; in particular, Felix Anthony who took a seat away from Vijay Singh on the strength of that promise.
Senators are nominated by the Party Leader, at his discretion, just as the Prime Minister appoints his Cabinet and nominates members to the Senate at his discretion. The Management Board has no say in who the Leader nominates and I had made this clear to the Board at the time: appointments to the Senate were the Leader’s prerogative, whoever the Leader was.
I had advised Vijay Singh not to agree to give up his seat to Felix Anthony but he made the mistake of believing some Board members that he would be successful in taking Vyas Deo Sharma’s seat in the Vuda Indian Communal constituency. He too plotted against Sharma along with some of his cronies in the Management Board.
Sad to say that Vijay Singh has become a victim of his own conspiracy against Vyas Deo Sharma. He can blame no one but himself for his current predicament.
Now, the five dissident members face disciplinary action. As Secretary General of the Party, I wrote to all of them, outlining charges laid against them and requesting a response by the end of the month.
Their deadline ended yesterday (31st July), without a response from any one of them. I will now invoke procedures laid out in the Party Constitution and call a National Council meeting to proceed with the matter further.
Finally, in a Management Board meeting held on 23 June, 2006 prior to my departure overseas, I had made it very clear to the Board members that nominations to the Senate were the prerogative of the Leader.”