Former and current Speaker in verbal spat
The Speaker of Parliament, Tole’afoa Leaupepe Fa’afisi, and former Speaker, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, were involved in a heated exchange when Parliament convened yesterday morning.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi was also involved, where he accused the former Speaker of being arrogant and high minded.
The exchange, where voices were raised, broke out during the discussion of the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018, tabled as a matter of urgency.
The Bill seeks to amend the Money Laundering Prevention Act 2007 to implement Samoa’s obligations and adherence to anti-money laundering. It will also help Samoa counter terrorist financing.
As the Acting Minister of Finance, Tuilaepa said the bill will protect Samoa from being implicated in criminal activities related to dirty monies often associated with offshore banking.
That’s when La’aulialemalietoa took the floor. He questioned why such an important bill had been tabled with a note of urgency, reminding that many bills passed under urgency only create more problems later.
He asked that the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018 be put through normal Parliamentary procedures, where members of the public can have their say.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa disagreed.
“Mr. Speaker, there are only two outcomes for this bill. We either protect ourselves and reject dirty money or accept dirty money, implicating us in these illegal activities,” he said. “Is that what the Member wants? It’s a direct question to him.”
“That’s not the spirit of what I’m saying. What I’m saying is to go through the normal procedure where the chance is given to the Parliamentary Committee to consult with members of the public.”
Tuilaepa though wouldn’t have any of it.
“I want to correct something,” he said. “This member used to be a Speaker of Parliament. Every time Cabinet agrees on a bill to be rushed through, there are reasons. The reason for this is that a global organisation is waiting.”
Tuilaepa did not say which global organisation he was referring to.
“He used to sit there,” he said about La’auli, “he understands very well and yet he suddenly doesn’t want to understand.”
La’auli took the floor again to say that he understands Cabinet procedures.
That’s when Speaker Toleafoa became involved.
“Our work is based on mutual respect, I used to sit there while you were here, I respected you,” Tole’afoa said, addressing La’auli.
“You were once a Speaker of the House. During your time, you never raised an objection about these matters when they were brought in as matters of urgency.
“Where were you then when you were here? Where was your opinion then?”
While Toleafoa was speaking, La'auli intervened and spoke over the Speaker.
“I am full of respect Toleafoa,” he said, while Tole’afoa was trying to tell him to sit down.
“I am full of respect for you. I did not take the floor to object to the bill, no I was merely advocating for an opportunity to be given to members of the public who will be affected by this law.”
When La'auli sat down, the Speaker continued: “Thank you, because I respected you too. You were here, and now you are no longer here, you are sitting there throwing rocks at me.”
This only infuriated La’auli.
“Mr. Speaker I don’t do that to you, it’s forbidden. Tole’afoa, remember our good relations. It is out of my respect that you are sitting there. Don’t you forget the hounour I extended to you! Mr. Speaker, don’t forget that.”
Speaker Toleafoa smiled.
But Tuilaepa was not happy.
“Mr. Speaker, no one man has authority over that Chair,” he said, adding that the Speaker is a position chosen by Parliament.
Turning to La'auli, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said: “Take such thinking away from you, you have become so arrogant.”
Speaker Tole’afoa was a lot calmer.
“I won’t dignify what you’ve just said because the wisdom of Solomon tells me no to respond to the type (like you),” he said.
“I forgive you La'auli, I forgive you. It appears you have very little respect for Parliament, you did not appoint me to be here.
“Nothing of the sort has happened since Independence. This is the first time I’ve heard such a thing from a Member who is so high minded. Despite that, I forgive you.”
Parliament continues on Monday.