Opposition spokesperson queries Parliament sitting

Members of Parliament should lead by example in observing the State of Emergency orders.

That's the opinion of the Spokesperson for the Samoa National Democratic Party (S.N.D.P.), Vui Seinafolava Masinamua, who said Cabinet's decision to make an exemption for Parliamentarians to attend a special session on Tuesday is not appropriate.

Under the orders of the S.O.E., gatherings of more than five people are prohibited. 

Vui said Members of Parliament should oblige by the laws they made.

He said Parliament should have considered other options to allow them to discuss a COVID19 stimulus plan. In the United Kingdom for example, Vui said they have resorted to using online technology for their sessions.

In New Zealand, a special Parliament committee tasked to interview those involved with Government’s COVID-19 response is allowing people to be interviewed remotely so members won’t be in the same room. 

This follows the New Zealand Government adjourning Parliament for five weeks and will not sit again until April 28.  

Vui said Samoa's Parliament should follow the same rules.

“The order is quite clear that it is forbidden to have mass gathering yet our law makers are breaking the law by doing exactly that,” said Vui. “They all have laptops that were gifted by China and now is the time to use those for online meetings using technology.”

The former Ambassador of China to Samoa in 2017 donated a total of 50 new sets of laptops, printers and photocopiers to the Legislative Assembly which is equivalent to $178,580 

Vui added that the Parliamentarians are in the circle of those that implemented the orders so they should find a way to meet  without publicly breaking the law. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi in his daily COVID-19 update on 2AP, said Parliament will meet on Tuesday to discuss the special supplementary budget for COVID-19.

“Members of Parliament should not be prohibited, they are the ones making the decisions [for the country],” said Tuilaepa. 

He pointed out the sitting will not take up the whole day and each M.P. will be seated from a distance to each other. 

But Vui said the explanation from the Prime Minister is irresponsible and stupid. 

“The law is for everyone and under the Constitution we are all equal – it does not exempt Members of Parliament,” he said. 

“If they go ahead with the parliament sitting then I can guarantee you that other groups like churches will follow too. 

Because at this time people are seeking the mercy of God during difficult times and are keen to go to church…”   

Members of Parliament who reside in Savai’i will also be exempt from the travel restrictions between Upolu and Savai’i so they can attend the parliament sitting on Tuesday. 

Tuilaepa said the special sitting will discuss the merger of the Prisons and Police together with an announcement from the Minister of Finance on stimulus package for COVID-19. 

A notice from the Legislative Assembly office had requested for Government Ministries, agencies and partners to have only one representative present during the parliament proceedings for everyone's safety.

The media has also been reserved a "designated area" that they will be able to get for the duration of the proceedings of Parliament on the day.

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