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Out of the shadows to join a family calling

IT’S just days after New Year and while chaos reigned on the mainland as news spread of an underwater earthquake, the then President of the National Federation Party, parliamentarian Tupou Draunidalo, was sitting unperturbed by the beach.

The threat of a tsunami had passed many hours beforehand, but the little island beach was still deserted – and she was facing an earth shattering decision of her own. Eight months into a full term parliamentary ban that many have called “extreme”, she was contemplating how best to step down so voters didn’t have to miss out on a voice in Parliament. It would be one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever had to make.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. On reflection, “it was like any divorce, very heart wrenching, emotional and difficult”. One of her mentors, Sydney-based retired lawyer Harish Sharma – who to this day calls her “beti” (daughter) – was once a celebrated leader of the party. Many friends, family members, colleagues and supporters had rallied to her NFP call. But the die was cast. In the weeks leading up to the decision, it was increasingly clear that her firebrand approach was out of step with those who preferred to walk on political eggshells, especially over the accountability of coup makers and other soldiers with coup makers.

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