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Declaration shocks constituency, by-election challenge welcomed

A senior matai of the Gagaifomauga No. 3 constituency, Seve Avaula, says they are shocked by Speaker of Parliament's decision to declare their seat in Parliament void. 

But they have accepted it and are prepared to vote La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt back to Parliament whenever the by-election is scheduled by the Office of the Electoral Commission.

Seve was contacted by the Samoa Observer on Saturday for a comment following confirmation that Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi has moved to issue a writ to the Electoral Commissioner, to prepare a by-election.

The senior matai from Sasina said La'auli had contacted them about the Speaker's decision.

"The story we saw contradicted what we thought was happening," he said. "We know La'auli did not write a formal resignation letter to the Speaker, but it was a letter from the constituency to explain the decision we made for La'auli. But we now see a different story saying La'auli had submitted a formal resignation letter to the Speaker."

Despite the conflicting interpretations of La'auli's letter, Seve said they are happy to go through the by-election to show that their constituency continues to fully support La'auli.

He added that the Faletolu, which is made up of Fagae'e, Sasina and Letui, will meet on Monday to discuss the matter. The fourth village in the constituency is Aopo. 

In the meantime, Seve said the constituency remains calm despite everything that has been done to their Member of Parliament.

"We are happy to do this," Seve said. "If this is what we have to go through to prove our loyalty to La'auli then so be it. This is our way of showing the whole world and to the leader of the Government that we stand behind La'auli and that we strongly support him.

"Unity is and has always been our strength, and together we support our tofi (chosen representative)."

La'auli's commitment and love for their constituency is why the villages continue to back him, Seve added.

"Every time something happens, La'auli always calls us first to seek advice," Seve said. "He does not do anything without consulting us first. He knows the people who voted him in Parliament are behind him and we appreciate that he acknowledges that. 

"He has a heart of gold and has done a lot for this constituency. Whenever he is uncertain about a matter, he calls us and asks us about what he should do."

According to Seve, the meeting on Monday will also open the door for anyone who is willing to contest the seat in the upcoming by-election to present his or her will to the Faletolu.

"If there is anyone who is willing to take the challenge, he or she is free to do so," said Seve.  "That is their own right. We are not stopping anyone, but they should do so when the faletolu meet on Monday."

Seve articulated that such a thing is unlikely to happen. 

"I don't know about Aopo, but for the Faletolu, we are all behind La'auli. If anyone from the Faletolu dares challenge the seat, I guess it would be someone who is not leaving and serving the villages [of the Faletolu]."

Nevertheless, Seve said they call on all the constituents of Gagaifomauga No.3 residing in Upolu to register for the by-election. 

He said they will continue praying to God to guide them through rough sails. 

"It has been hard. But nothing is impossible with God. We trust Him and let his will be done."

The outgoing M.P for Gagaifomauga No.3, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, verbally resigned from the Parliament early this month following recommendations of a Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics Committee Report, which found him guilty of contempt of Parliament. 

He was then asked to submit a formal resignation letter to the Speaker of Parliament. 

However, La'auli met with his constituency and was asked not to write a resignation letter.

Instead, he was instructed by his constituency to form a new political party, while the constituency will write a formal letter to the Speaker to explain the decision they have made for him as their M.P.

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