Former Speaker expresses concerns over Parliament debate
Former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, says Parliament debates are no longer what it used to be.
He has questioned the freedom of Members of Parliament to express their views, under the watch of Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Tole'afoa Fa'afisi.
“As a former Speaker for ten years, Parliament is no longer the same as it used to be,” said Laauli.
La’auli, who recently quit the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.). told the Samoa Observer he no longer had his freedom on the floor of Parliament.
“And that’s why I left," he said.
"I tried to work as an independent Member in Parliament, and you have seen what has happened."
Efforts to get direct comments from the Speaker were unsuccessful.
Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Luatalo Senima, said the Speaker did not have time as Parliament was continuing.
Leaupepe has been sharing the Speaker role with his Deputy, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, from time to time.
According to La'auli, Members of Parliament need to be given the opportunity to voice their opinions without being shut down by the Speaker.
“When I came to Parliament, Tolofuaivalelei [Falemoe Le’iataua] was the Speaker and there were Independent members and political parties and it was very interesting at the time,” said Laauli.
“The then-Speaker gave the opportunity to each and every member to voice their concerns.
“And when I came on board as the Speaker, I followed suit that the Speaker and Parliament must be independent versus nowadays we can’t cross debate. Parliament is no longer independent.”
He noted there is one party which is the core issue at hand in Samoan democracy.
The former Speaker expressed disappointment in the conduct of recent Parliamentary debates, in which he said Members were not allowed to “defend” themselves.
Last week, Laauli questioned the accuracy of Parliament Hansard, claiming some of his comments had been deliberately excluded.
Laauli and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, were embroiled in a heated exchange about the Government’s budget deficit on Tuesday morning. During the evening session his comments were nowhere to be found on the Hansard.
“Mr. Speaker, the Hansard of our meeting earlier today [has] arrived,” La’auli said. “I note with sadness that my speech as a Member of Parliament is not complete.”
La’auli claimed that his microphone had been turned off while he was still speaking.
“After our session earlier today, my constituency asked me why is it that my [microphone] often goes off when I’m speaking.”
The senior Member of Parliament then asked Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Keti Talaimanu, to allow Members of Parliament to express themselves and let that be reflected in the official records.
He said this was important since matters being discussed in Parliament are being broadcast for the world to see.