5 Jul 2016

Rabuka will step down if Fiji's SODELPA doesn't succeed

6:42 am on 5 July 2016

The new leader of Fiji's main opposition party Sitiveni Rabuka says he will step down if the party's chances of electoral success are reduced because of his past.

The leader of the 1987 coup and a subsequent prime minister admitted he had a lot of work to do to unify SODELPA over his appointment.

The leader of Fiji's opposition SODELPA party, Sitiveni Rabuka.

The leader of Fiji's opposition SODELPA party, Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: AFP

Mr Rabuka, who was elected last month by 19 votes to 14, told Fiji television he would be going out to meet those in the party who did not vote for him.

"The vote is not very convincing ... I have a lot of work to do," he said.

Mr Rabuka said he would be tackling the leadership role in the run up to the 2018 election using sincerity, honesty and compassion.

He would not be drawn on whether the former prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamesese Mara, was behind the first of his two coups in 1987.

Mr Rabuka said he did not want to belittle anyone who had worked for the country and who was not there to defend themselves.

"I don't want to go back to 1987. I was the person who went into parliament and I will accept that blame. The person involved was me," Mr Rabuka told the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation's "4 The Record."

He also denied pulling the strings in the George Speight coup of 2000 and any involvement in a mutiny at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks in November that year.

He said his presence at the barracks was because he had been sent by Home Affairs to negotiate a ceasefire.

Mr Rabuka said his failure at the 1999 election was possibly due to going too fast into coalition with the National Federation Party and losing the support of the Methodist Church.

He said SODELPA had gone through the process electing him as leader and he would remain in that role.

"If the party's chances are reduced because of me then I will step down," said Mr Rabuka.

Sodelpa Party Headquarters

Sodelpa Party Headquarters Photo: RNZI / Sally Round