Why is P.M. Tuilaepa threatened by a “childish” politician who “lacks common sense”?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 20 July 2018, 12:00AM

This much is undeniable. The outspoken Member of Parliament Olo Fiti Vaai has never been popular with the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) administration. He never will.

But the relationship between the one-man opposition party and the all-powerful Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his party has hit an all time low, perhaps suggesting that Tuilaepa has finally had enough.

For three terms in Parliament, Olo, also known as Levaopolo Talatonu in his other life, has been a thorn on the side of Prime Minister Tuilaepa. 

He was outspoken the moment he entered Parliament and that has not changed. Today, Olo continues to be the lone voice in the wilderness calling the Government to account over so many issues. 

His latest jab at Tuilaepa’s Government comes in the form of questions about the suitability of board members in different Government boards whose decisions cost taxpayers a lot of money year in year out. Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Olo said the incompetency of some board members have led to lawsuits that end up being paid for by taxpayers.

For instance, Olo highlighted a case where the National Provident Fund was taken to Court by the Apia Construction and Engineering Limited and won. The lawsuit cost the Government $2million.

 “These are a result of incompetent decision made by the board members,” Olo said. “I cannot divulge their identity for now, but soon it will come out. The Samoan Government should have special qualifications for members of the public hired as board members.

 “They play a vital role in daily works of the Government ministries. At the end of the day, they are the ones who make the final decision. The same decisions will have an impact, not only on the Ministry but also the Government as a whole.”

From an outside perspective looking in, Olo has a legitimate point. 

If certain board members are not performing their roles, and end up becoming liabilities to taxpayers, why should they continue to remain there? Besides, we are not talking about small amounts of monies; we are talking about millions of taxpayers’ Tala here? Who is accountable for that? 

Now the latest line of questions from Olo has obviously upset Prime Minister Tuilaepa so much he has done something we’ve never seen him do before. He has threatened to remove Olo from Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee. Accusing Olo of playing “dirty politics,” Tuilaepa warned that he is playing on thin ice.

“This is dirty politics and that is prohibited under the Parliamentary rules,” Tuilaepa said. “Issues are raised during those hearings are for them to investigate; however it is not for him to raise publicly because he knows the allegations are unfounded.”

“And this will eventually lead to his removal from the Parliamentary Committee, as there are rules in place.” 

The Prime Minister added that Olo’s views are traditionally anti-Government and are deliberately expressed to stir up trouble. Lastly, he described him as “childish” and someone who “lacks common sense”

Tuilaepa said he wants to protect members of the public from being misinformed by someone like Olo.

 “It means that the Government Ministries will no longer give the right information to the Committees, as a result of the issue at hand.”

Now why on earth will that happen? Is the Prime Minister suggesting that the Government Ministries are afraid of the truth too? If they are telling the truth, what is there to be afraid of? Besides, are not members of the public the same taxpayers who have to fork out for these ridiculous, incompetent and costly decisions?

So what does Olo make of the Prime Minister’s threats?

Asked for a comment, he said: “What happened to the spirit of transparency which the Government preaches about everyday?”

“Let me remind you Mr. Prime Minister that upon the tabling of all these reports, all the information becomes public information and from there on, the public has a right to know.” 

Olo added that the Prime Minister’s threat is unfortunate.

“If he’s trying to shut me down by removing me from the Committee, that is his call. I want him to keep in mind that I was educated too and I can attain information elsewhere. I am very resourceful.”

Lastly, Olo reminded that the H.R.P.P. Government always insists on transparency and accountability and yet “what is happening here is the opposite of that.”

So what is Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration afraid of? What are they trying to hide? And why go out of their way to try and extinguish just about the last voice of dissent in an already one-party state Parliament? 

Tell us what you think.

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 20 July 2018, 12:00AM

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