“Newbies” or whatever, what this country needs is decency, justice, truth and love

La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao might have verbally resigned and left Parliament’s chambers on Tuesday but the fall out continues while Speaker Leaupepe Tole’afoa Faafisi awaits his written resignation.

But then again that resignation might not happen. On the front page of the newspaper you are reading today, La’auli’s constituency in Savai’i has spoken and they have told the former Cabinet Minister not to resign. The order came during a constituency meeting at Vailīlī Sasina, yesterday, where senior chief, Seve Auala, delivered the message on behalf of the voters.

"You are not to submit a written resignation," La’auli was told. "That is our decision. You start a new political party and there will be no by-election."

Well that’s very clear and it’s going to be quite compelling to see how that pans out. If La’auli is to form a new political party during this Parliamentary term, as his constituency has demanded, the Electoral laws as we understand it say that he must resign. Unless of course La’auli waits out the Parliamentary term until this sitting is officially dissolved, which is not long to go now.

Whatever happens, the developments over the next few weeks and months will be a fascinating watch.

Back in Upolu, a war of words has broken out between two politicians over what happened in Parliament on Tuesday, moments before La’auli walked away from the House. The fiery exchange was sparked by Laauli’s fellow independent Member of Parliament and Salega East M.P., Olo Fiti Va’ai, who has taken issue with how La’auli was treated.

Olo’s anger appears to have been caused by Members of Parliament whom he described as “newbies” and the way they spoke to La’auli with regards to the Parliamentary Committee report that had been tabled that morning. While he did not name the “newbies”, Olo said common courtesy dictates that the newer members of Parliament should have been more respectful in expressing their views.

“I take offence to the newbies politicians who just came yesterday and raised their voice in Parliament,” Olo said. “They have neglected the fact that La’auli is a former Speaker and also a former Cabinet Minister.

 “Let me remind these new politicians to earn your place before you start making snide remarks to a senior Member of Parliament. Also let me be frank, respect is earned not given. And while they dislike comments by La’auli that it disrespects their party’s leader, the Parliament of Samoa does not operate on guidelines of the [Human Rights Protection Party].”

Now Olo’s comments have attracted a response from the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Nafo’itoa Talaimanu Keti, who cautioned the Salega East M.P.

“I rebuke those condescending comments attacking the new lawmakers including me. It is outright disrespectful,” Nafoitoa fired back. “His comments are targeting the Members of Parliament that include me and I will not have it. These disparaging comments should not be allowed in Parliament.”

The Deputy Speaker reminded Olo that while they are new in Parliament, they are representatives of their respective constituencies.

 “How dare Olo talk to us and label the respective M.P.s like that? We are all equal. We represent our constituency and therefore his condescending comments also target [those we represent] and he should be careful,” Nafo’i said, adding that Olo’s comments reflect his “narrow-mindedness” and “how little he thinks of the respective Members of Parliament.”

The Deputy Speaker Nafo’i has a point. The fact is all men and women in Parliament have been chosen to be there to speak for their constituencies. Which means it’s irrelevant whether they are “newbies”, “oldies” or whatever, as long as they speak with respect, dignity, class and focus on the real issues, let them say whatever.

Indeed, we’d rather have a constructive Parliament without the personal venom and low-level personal attacks we’ve become so used to in the recent past, passed off as Samoan culture speak. If anything, it sounds all so childish, especially coming from people whom this nation voted to be there to deal with the real issues. 

Forget the personalities, forget the emotions but let’s deal with facts, which is what Parliamentary debates should be all about.

Let us not forget that at the heart of this matter is a concern by a Member of Parliament that a standby generator for the Prisons should not cost $300,000, as the Finance Committee had allocated in their estimates. It’s a legitimate concern. All “newbies” in Parliament, who truly care about Samoa and her people, should be worried about this. This is the real issue.

Does a standby generator really need to cost $300,000? Think about this for a moment. How many other similar expenses are allowed without being questioned and scrutinised? We ask this because in the recent past we’ve seen many outrageously priced projects that end up being a complete waste of time and money?

Have we forgotten about the “$490,000 expensive and broken down elevator” at a Government building that never worked? What about the multi-million-tala Water Drill Rig which was recently rotting publically at the Faleata Golf Course as if it was there to remind us about how not to use public funds? Has this Government not learnt anything about how not to waste money?

This is why the idea of a $300,000 allocation for a standby generator would just make any decent person want to cry. Would any of those politicians, who had a go at La’auli for raising a mere question in Parliament, had spent that much money if it was their own hard-earned cash? We doubt it.

Some of these bad habits are nothing new. If anything, this La’auli saga is a timely reminder that all Members of Parliament, “newbies” or whatever, have a duty to be absolutely scrupulous about public spending, especially where public monies could be saved.

Think about that $300,000 for a lousy generator of the prison of all places. Then think about the thousands of women, men and their children who lined up at the S.N.P.F. building, desperate for help, only for some of them to receive “no more than $20” in their cash pay out? How demoralising must that have been?

The point is that this is the sort of injustice Members of Parliament should be concerned about. They should be fired up about the welfare of the people of this nation, including the poorest of the poor. And they should play the ball, not the man. Who cares if you are a newbie or not? What this country needs is decency, justice, truth and love. 

Have a restful Sunday Samoa, God bless!









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