“I am free,” La’auli declares as Parliament debates $966m budget
Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, has declared that he is now truly a "free man" in Parliament.
La’auli made the declaration during his maiden address as an independent Member of Parliament after he resigned from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party last week.
After a three-week break since the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, tabled a $966 million budget to cover the costs of running Samoa over the next 12 months, Parliament reconvened on Tuesday morning to debate the details of the estimates.
Laauli was among the first two speakers, with the first being the Member of Parliament for Lefaga and Faleaseela, Toleafoa Ken Poutoa.
When Laauli took the floor, the former Speaker and Cabinet Minister officially informed the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi about his decision to become an independent.
La'auli sat next to another independent Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai.
Laauli said the details about his decision had already been made public and he did not want to get into them in Parliament. But he acknowledged the ruling Human Rights Protection Party and its leadership, including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi. He also sought forgiveness from the party if he had offended anyone in the process.
But Laauli said this is a new step in his life and he was under instructions from his constituency to remain as an independent M.P. until the next General Election.
On the details of the budget, Laauli expressed concerns about the mounting deficit. He also questioned whether Samoa had been stopped from borrowing money.
On other matters, he asked the Government to consider buying back Bluesky, which he said is now owned by Vodafone. He said it seems like all communications in Samoa are being controlled from Fiji, an allegation which was denied by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai.
La’auli also praised the investigations into the tax practices of two Chinese-owned companies saying the Government needs to be on its toes to monitor their activities.
When La'auli's time ran out, Olo moved a motion for an extension. It was not supported. His fellow Member of Parliament from Gagaifomauga No. 3, Faaulusau Rosa Duffy-Stowers, said she would have supported it except that Laauli is now an independent M.P.
The Speaker did not grant the request by Olo and La'auli ended his maiden speech as an independent.
Government’s total budget for the new financial year 2020-2021 Financial Year amounted to $838 million in revenue and $965 million in expenditures, which has resulted in a widening national deficit of $116 million after “soft term borrowing” is accounted for.