Members of Parliament have been urged to use Parliamentary privileges appropriately to advance democracy in Samoa.
The message comes from a former Speaker of Australia’s Parliament, Anna Burke, who said Parliamentary Privileges is not an opportunity to attack and abuse people.
She was speaking during the 3rd Australia-Samoa Parliamentary Partnership Seminar Series at Taumeasina Island Resort yesterday.
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and Members of Parliament.
One of the issues on the agenda was Parliamentary Privileges.
Privileges, she said, are quite often misunderstood.
“We are given Parliamentary privileges and we need to use that wisely,” she said.
“We need to ensure that Parliament is the robust debating Chamber where things can be said that are important to the nation. So people and Parliament should be protected when they are in the Parliament.”
Ms. Burke added that such privileges should allow a Member of Parliament to speak freely and ensure that the voice of their constituency is heard.
“It is also ensuring that you do voice what you believe and what your constituencies believe in a manner that is free and fair and people inside parliament should have the ability to know that what they are saying is free from any influence outside,” she said.
“But as I said before, you shouldn’t use Parliament to attack people or to defame, to insult or ridicule other people.
“So it’s a two way street. You’ve got this wonderful thing call privilege and you can’t be defamed for something that you said in Parliament and that you should respect it and also have the right to speak freely in Parliament.”
Ms. Burke added that it seems simple yet it is quite complex and complicated.
But she is confident the gathering yesterday would help Members of Parliament to understand their role more and use Parliamentary privileges to advance the cause of democracy and justice.
“Samoa has a stable government and system of democracy so this is just enhancing what you have already got here,” she said.
The two-day seminar on Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics is being facilitated by former Members of Parliament and Staff from the House of Representatives of Australia.
The series is part of an ongoing partnership between the Parliament of Samoa and the Australian Federal Parliament to improve the knowledge base for Parliamentarians.