La'auli resigns

Parliament has accepted the Privilege and Ethics Committee report which found Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, guilty of contempt of Parliament.

But instead of endorsing a recommendation by the Committee to suspend La'auli without pay for three months, the Chamber resolved to formally warn the Member of Parliament. 

That decision was announced by the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Tole'afoa Fa'afisi.

By then, La'auli had already announced his resignation from Parliament and left the building. 

The Speaker then said he would ask La'auli to submit an official resignation letter.

It was the latest development in an emotionally charged day at Parliament, where opinions from members of the house were divided over the Committee's report.

The Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics Committee found La’auli guilty of misleading Chamber over remarks he made about a proposed $300,000 generator for the Tanumalala Prison. 

Chaired by Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, the Committee recommended for La’auli to be suspended for three months without pay and benefits for breaching Parliament Standing Orders. 

In announcing his resignation, La’auli said he wanted to save Parliament the trouble of deciding his fate. La’aulialemalietoa maintained that his intentions were good when he raised questions about the cost of a generator that led to an investigation against him.

La’auli addressed the findings saying the spirit of the point he raised against the cost of the generator was to save Government money. 

“The motive behind my questions is why should we spend this much on the generator when I can confirm that it can be bought at a lot less cost,” he said.

“However the Finance Committee did not accept my request to look into quotes presented but the price of the generator should not exceed $200,000. 

“The quote I had submitted [before the Committee] explains it should not reach $300,000 for the generator. My intention was to expand on what I had raised but I had no intention to mislead Parliament.” 

Furthermore, La’auli said he does not take his oath before Parliament lightly and will not deceive those in the Chamber. 

Turning to the Speaker, La’auli said his words were general comments and he wanted to compare the differences of the costs with the belief that the $300,000 price tag for the generator was too much. 

“But I know that it does not cost up to $100,000,” he insisted. 

“My only intention was to save taxpayer’s money but unfortunately it's misinterpretation of my speech on their part. However, I have proven my point that a 200KVA generator that costs less than $100,000 can be procured to power up the prison.”

La’auli also expressed his disappointment in the findings from the Committee. 

He told Parliament that instead of looking into the issue he raised about the lowest quotes for the generator, the Committee had instead persecuted him for demanding answers. 

“What appeared to be an easy matter but my speech has been misinterpreted and used against me as if I had murdered someone,” he said.

In his defense, La’auli recalled that in the past there were matters that involved the security of the country where an M.P. was part of a roadblock in Satapuala but nothing was done against him.

“Was anything done to Toeolesulusulu over the roadblock, a matter that threatened a person's life,” asked La’auli. 

“Why has this been done to me? Honourable Speaker, my wounds have yet to heal from my Court case and this.  I ask for your forgiveness if we are at odds of what I might have expressed, but my words only I can interpret what I had said. 

“But you have interpreted my thoughts, the only righteous decision is from God.” 

La’auli also turned to M.P. Faumuina Wayne Fong who is being implicated in the report due to his freight company that released the cargo. 

He told Faumuina that he had no intention to drag him into the matter but the only reason why his name was mentioned is because of his freight forward company but it was not to collude with him. 

In terms of the Customs officer that has been suspended following the investigation from the Committee La’auli said he did not influence him. 

After informing Parliament verbally that he is resigning, La’auli left the Chamber. 

The Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Tole'afoa Fa'afisi, had then moved a motion for La’auli to submit a written resignation letter to formalise his decision. 

The motion was seconded by Cabinet Ministers following advice from Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi that the law requires a formal written letter from the M.P. to resign from office. 

Parliament has been adjourned until August after the main budget for 2020 - 2021 financial year was passed on Tuesday afternoon. 






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