“It seems like the Prime Minister and his Ministries are trying to master and remote control us…”

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 02 February 2019, 12:00AM

Let’s face it. This without a doubt is one of the most interesting times in the journey of our beautiful Samoa in recent memory. 

If anything, the developments in the past couple of days, especially in the political arena – open up some interesting questions – on not just about what’s happening today, but the answers could provide some clarity in the future.

Take for instance the situation that the former Cabinet Minister and Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao, has found himself in. A long serving member of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.), his decision to vote against the Government’s Electoral Constituencies Bill, has landed him in hot water. 

Today, judging from what the Prime Minister has been saying, La’auli is effectively sacked. How else can one interpret Tuilaepa’s comments? 

Listen to him again: “I wrote to thank him for removing himself from the party. I thanked him for making that decision and we happily accept his decision.”

During the same interview, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said there are H.R.P.P. by-laws that must be respected, when it comes to the position of the party on certain issues. He said La’auli’s vote against the Government’s position on the Electoral Constituencies Bill was telling.

 “He has made his decision and under our by-laws, it’s an indication that you have officially resigned,” Tuilaepa said.

Interestingly enough, Tuilaepa would not say whether they have removed La’auli from the H.R.P.P. Nor would he say whether they intend to call a caucus meeting to discuss Laauli’s future. But is it really that simple to remove a Member of Parliament?

Asked if there would be a by-election, Tuilaepa said that is under the jurisdiction of the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi. 

Why pass the buck? Isn’t the Speaker also a member of the H.R.P.P., which means that if the leader has already made the decision, what else can the Speaker say? 

When La’auli was asked for a comment, he not only said he has not received a letter from the Prime Minister, he insisted he was still a Member of Parliament, let alone a member of the H.R.P.P. He said he would call a press conference once he gets more information about what is happening.  

La’auli’s position is understandable. The questions are: Can the Prime Minister remove a Member of Parliament on his own? Now say, for argument’s sakes, there is a H.R.P.P. policy whereby anybody who votes against the party, is terminated. Does this policy have the power to then also remove the member from Parliament? In other words, if the member is removed from the party, does that automatically mean they lose their seat in Parliament? 

We are acutely aware that this is a developing matter and we are likely to find out more details in the next few days. This case, however, from as far as we can see – has aspects that are quite unique, which will test the waters.

What we can say so far is that this latest drama will not help the Government’s case against people who claim that Samoa is being run like a dictatorship. 

Why would an all-powerful Government want to crush a lone dissenting voice unless it is hell-bent on absolute and complete control? Besides, what happened to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, especially in Parliament where it should be championed?

But then what’s happened to La’auli is hardly surprising. It appears that the Government is on a crusade to crush any opposition voice that gets in the way of its agenda.

Look at what has happened to the Pulenu’u of Nofoali’i, Otemai Liu Ausage, who openly criticised the Government’s land laws in the Samoa Observer. The Village Mayor, who also expressed support for Samoa Solidarity International Group (SSIG), was immediately sacked by the Government. 

 “Your objection and unfounded accusations against the government is negligence on your part in carrying out your duties in accordance to the law,” the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development, Afamasaga Fa’aiuga Palepua-Mulitalo, wrote.

“This is why the Ministry has decided that it is no longer appropriate that you are employed as a Government representative in the village, since you are being paid by the Government. Your actions and behaviour are not in line with policies and laws in place to guide the work of Village Representatives in Government.”

With that, Otemai was fired. Pronto.

But what he said in response to the decision was quite interesting.

“In Samoa today, there is just too much political control from Prime Minister and his people,” he said. “It doesn’t surprise me what has happened. I don’t care about any position because the government controls everything in Samoa and that‘s not right. It seems like the Prime Minister and his Ministries are trying to master and remote control us to do things they want.” 

Otemai has a point. 

And we don’t need to look further than the developments of the past few days for evidence. No wonder people are increasingly worried that Samoa is becoming more and more autocratic. What do you think?

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 02 February 2019, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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