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Party calls for conscience vote on L.T.C. bills

The leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Afualo Luagalau Dr. Salele, has called on the Prime Minister to allow Members of Parliament to exercise a conscience vote, when three bills to reform the Judiciary return to the House in August, for the third reading.

Speaking during an interview with the Samoa Observer, the party leader said the public consultation exercise that a Special Parliamentary Committee is currently leading on Savai’i and Upolu on the three bills is just a “formality.”

He claimed that Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has already decided the Government will vote for the legislation despite widespread condemnation. 

“We believe that while all this fuss is made, the decision has already been made by Tuilaepa,” he said. 

“This is just for the sake of formalities but the decision has been made so it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money for the Parliamentary Committee going out to fulfil the obligation of [consultation], but the decision had already been made.

“So if Tuilaepa and his administration are really true to their word, then they should be able to call a conscience vote.”

A conscience vote or free vote is a kind of vote in a legislative body where members of Parliament are allowed to vote according to their own personal conscience, rather than according to an official line set down by their political party.

Samoa’s Legislative Assembly is dominated by Members belonging to the Tuilaepa-led Human Rights Protection Party and does not officially have an opposition. 

Afualo said a conscience vote will enable H.R.P.P. Members to freely express their wishes and that of their constituency on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Lands and Titles Court Bill 2020 and Judicature Bill 2020. 

“That conscience vote will give some freedom to the representatives of H.R.P.P. to vote and really express what they want and what their constituencies want,” he added. “This is also why [President of the L.T.C.] Fepuleai [Atilla Ropati] wasn’t removed; it was through the conscience vote. Votes did not reach two thirds which put Tuilaepa’s bid to remove him at rest.

“I hope [Tuilaepa] is genuine enough to leave it to the country through their Members’ votes in Parliament. Because if this is done, I believe they will not reach two thirds, as many constituencies are urging their representatives to go against this move.

“Otherwise, it will be a party vote and if this is the case then it’s done for, they cannot vote against it. It will be passed.”

Last month party loyalty was put to the test when former Cabinet Minister La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata'ivao tendered his resignation from the H.R.P.P. after coming under increasing pressure from the Prime Minister to leave, after he voted against amendments to the Electoral Act over a year ago. 

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