Opposition parties condemn media ban
This week's exclusion of members of the press from pre-parliamentary sessions has been condemned by opposition parties as a means for curbing scrutiny of the Government.
The issue of the media ban surfaced on Monday, when a reporter from the Samoa Observer and a local TV station, were asked by the Legislative Assembly's Sergeant at Arms, Luatalo Setima, to leave a pre-parliamentary session, ahead of Tuesday's opening day of Parliament.
The sittings are held on the eve of Parliament convening and designed to give Members of Parliament an opportunity to raise questions and seek clarification on bills to be proposed before the Parliament.
"The biggest question to the Speaker of the House is, what are you trying to hide?," asked the President of re-launched Samoa National Democratic Party, Vui Seigafolava Masinamua said.
"Why hide when the people of this country are supposed to know because the people have the power, not the Parliament?
"Once they try and hide, it means there are dishonest things discussed, in case the people find out before it is discussed in Parliament, in case are any protests or anything.
"They are accountable to the people; it is as simple as that."
Vui slammed the decision as inappropriate and questioned its basis in parliamentary procedure.
The Legislative Clerk, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, told Samoa Observer this week that the decision was raised with the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi who “reiterated the significance of Parliamentary privilege which is essential to the functioning of Parliament".
In previous years the media has been given access to the sessions. Vui questioned why this year was different to previous years.
The Tautua Samoa Party President, Afualo Luagalau Salele, told the Samoa Observer that the media ban was tantamount to political censorship.
"The matter should have been thought out thoroughly," he said.
"In my view, it is another form of censorship the Speaker is trying to bring in, in efforts to censor the information there with the goal that the Parliament will all be on one side.
"But remember, the trick there is that, now that Members of Parliament are informed of the bills, they won't have to raise anything else in the [Chamber].
"And that's a trick, which is why in those days when we get up to show our opinions in Parliament, the Prime Minister would get up and say we are wasting time."