Pity that nagging thing called “conscience”
So there you have it Samoa. In the history of our one-party state Parliament, where the all-powerful Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) absolutely dominates, what transpired at the Maota Fono at Mulinu’u on Tuesday was quite remarkable. It really was.
Despite wielding the power to move anything and everything – as we have witnessed over the years – Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s motion to terminate the services of Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati as the President of the Lands and Titles Court, was not successful.
Yes folks, you read it correctly, it was defeated. With the Constitution requiring a two third majority for the motion to succeed, Tuilaepa could only secure 21 votes in support. Eighteen voted against the motion with at least 10 other Members of Parliament absent. That left the Government 13 votes shy of the 34 needed for Tuilaepa to succeed.
And with the Prime Minister’s motion defeated, the outcome of the conscience vote means someone with a conviction, in this case the charge being causing actual bodily harm, will continue as the President of the Land and Titles Court down at Mulinu’u. It’s quite bizarre, isn’t it? But hold that thought for a second.
In the meantime, think about this. This is Samoa where Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s word is the first and the last in anything and everything. For 20 years, he has absolutely controlled that Parliament like it is nobody else’s business.
Today, 46 Members of Parliament (excluding La’auli Leuatea Polataivao) officially belong to the H.R.P.P. We accept the fact that Tuesday’s vote was a conscience vote, instead of a party one.
But did anybody see this coming? Samoa today is Tuilaepa’s castle. It’s impossible that a motion moved by the leader of the H.R.P.P. is defeated. Which is why what transpired at the Maota Fono was not only remarkably rare, it was strange. It certainly raises the question of what is going on? Was there method to thy madness?
When it comes to President Fepulea’i, a lot has been said about his conduct or misconduct for that matter. The simple truth is the that we will now have someone with a conviction sitting there as the President of the Lands and Titles Court. It’s an uncomfortable thought. But it is what it is.
Come to think of it, why should we be surprised? This is the picture of Samoa today. No doubt this decision will only add to the multiplying layers of questionable developments down at the halls of justice, which is ironically just down the road from the Parliament.
Indeed, the developments at the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration during the past few months and years have not only been extremely disturbing, they point to issues of integrity, decency, fairness and morality.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa his Deputy, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa – who voted to remove Fepulea'i from the Land and Titles Court – made many legitimate points.
“I urge that you consider this matter with caution,” Tuilaepa said, reminding that the world is watching how Samoa’s Parliament handles the matter.
“We make the laws; we should live by those laws. You have received my ministerial speech where I pointed out the criminal convictions of the President.The decision by the District Court to fine him considering the charge is a result of his bad behaviour.”
Deputy Prime Minister Fiame was equally brutal.
Said Fiame: “We stand by the law. We are lawmakers, we live, abide and respect the law.
“I strongly support the motion by the Government to terminate the services of the President of the Lands and Titles Court.
"I strongly reject the report submitted by the (Special Inquiry) Committee. Their report should be removed from the hansard, as it only brings shame to this Parliament.”
Both Tuilaepa and Fiame are absolutely correct. Looking at what has transpired, people can be forgiven for thinking that that there are different rules for different people.
But if the Prime Minister and his Deputy felt so strongly about the issue, the tactic they employed to address it was certainly interesting, if not strange.
From a strategist point of view, if the whole exercise was to protect Fepulea’i, it was brilliant.
Folks take away your conscience and it will be very hard to argue against it. You’ll find that from a legal perspective and as far as satisfying processes go; everything was done according to the books. And democratic too.
But there is always that nagging little thing called conscience. God has placed that in each and every one of us to know what is right and wrong.
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Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!