The leaders of the Human Rights Protection Party and the Tautua Samoa Party unsurprisingly offer very different takes on the defection of former M.P for Faleata West and the Tautua Whip.
Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi announced his decision to run for the Human Rights Protection Party after parliament dissolved earlier last month.
The H.R.P.P. leader expressed his delight at having a Tautua Samoa Party founding member change sides who he believes has seen what is best for Samoa.
And while Tautua leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II gave his blessings to the M.P. who was a founding member of the political party and acknowledged his contributions, he was skeptical about the reasons offered for the change.
“Leala was someone who had contributed to this party but he has had a change of heart (liu lona finagalo),” said Palusalue.
“He says it’s what his constituency wants but we all understand that decisions on which political party you choose, is not up to your constituency, because you cannot call the whole Faleata West constituency to meet and decide this.
“We believe it’s his freedom to change but if Samoa asks us, our answer would be he went on the other side because of the benefits.”
“The truth is, when he was here, he had a voice,” said the Palusalue.
“Now he’s on that side, Tuilaepa will collect all their brains because it’s a party for the mute.
According to Palu, in the previous election, Leala had more than 2,000 voters who had supported Tautua.
He said now that he has switched, the constituency will make their decision but the majority of those who supported his seat in Parliament were Tautua supporters.
However caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi had a laugh at the Tautua party and Leala’s decision.
About the political party’s name, Tuilaepa said it was shallow for Tautua to not recognise that Leala had the party named after him making reference to the Samoan saying, ‘ole ala ile pule ole tautua’.
Translated into English it means, ‘the path to leadership is through service’. “That is why I feel for the party, they are so shallow they didn’t see what Leala has done,” said Tuilaepa.
“I have given my blessing to Leala and I have reminded him there are effects to being a leader, you either have grey hair or your hair falls off.
“If you look at my hair it’s all grey and I told Leala that because (previously) he had a lot of hair left. But now I see him, he is bald because of them and so he came to this side.”
Having Leala on his side is a big disadvantage for the Opposition, believes Tuilaepa.
He asserted that only Leala knew the importance of the constituency and only he did his homework.
“That is why when you hear their attacks they don’t have any shield or sword,” he added.
“They get hit back by our slingshot, because Leala is here now.”
However, the H.R.P.P. Leader admitted there were doubts when Leala approached to join the ruling party especially knowing that some of their own M.P.s are still recovering from Leala’s ‘hits’.
He was referring to a charity fight where Leala had fought with M.P. for Palauli, Afoafouvale John Moors.
Tuilaepa said now that Leala is on their side it is an advantage for them as he was a founding member of Tautua.
“If he sees this is the only political party that the country will benefit from, then he is a warrior.
“What other testament is there to prove that (than him switching). So Tautua can complain and accuse us but this will be a cornerstone - that someone who was a leader there has switched to H.R.P.P. because he sees it’s for the best of Samoa.”