Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, reprimanded a senior Member of Parliament yesterday for taking pot shots at the leadership of Parliament and Government from the backbench.
Leaupepe became unhappy about the tone of former Speaker and Cabinet Minister, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, when he spoke during the discussion of the government’s $24.4 million supplementary budget.
Towards the end of his speech, La'auli said he feels a lot freer to speak as a backbencher as opposed to the time when he was the Speaker and a Cabinet Minister.
“There are no restrictions and I feel free to speak my mind,” La’auli said. “I think this is where I belong, I’m no longer restricted.”
But Speaker Leaupepe objected.
He was unhappy by the inference drawn that a Member of Parliament can say whatever once they are no longer in a position of responsibility in Parliament or the Government.
Referring to Samoan oratory speak, Leaupepe said: “Careful how you paddle because it’s splashing on my face.”
La’auli, the M.P. for Gagaiofomauga No. 3, has been in Parliament for 13 years.
He was appointed Speaker of the House on his second term. For his third and current term, he was handed the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministerial portfolio.
This was until he resigned over a pending Court matter – involving another senior Member of Parliament and Associate Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga - so that today he is a regular M.P.
Speaking for the first time in Parliament since the charges against him surfaced last year, La’auli said one of the most challenging aspects of the Court hearing is that it is an “internal injury, not one from the outside.”
He did not elaborate except to say that he has learnt there are people who are not genuine in Parliament and that his fellow M.P’s should be careful.
“I’m saying this because it is happening to me today but it could be your turn tomorrow,” the M.P. said, adding that he will let justice takes its natural course.
But he said he loved the freedom to be able to serve from “the other side of the house” and speak his mind on issues.
Member of Parliament for Faleata West and Associate Minister, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, objected. As a former Opposition M.P., Leala, who has since switched parties to join the H.R.P.P., said they enjoy as much freedom as anyone in the House.
“On this side, we are also free to speak our minds. Anytime,” Leala retorted.
Opposition M.P., Olo Fiti Vaai, also took the floor.
“I’d like to ask the honourable Member to tell us what things are restricting the members on that side of the House,” he said.
La’auli did not take the bait.
“They are jokers,” he said, referring to Leala and Olo. “The country sees everything everyone is doing. We shouldn’t be silent on these chairs.”