La'auli stands by F.A.S.T policies
Former Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, has embraced criticisms from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, saying it will only make the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (National Unity in God) party stronger.
In response to the first items on F.A.S.T's manifesto, including placing a limit of two terms on the Prime Ministership, Tuilaepa said the plan was typical of a political desperate to win support, and to woo voters.
Asked for a comment, La'auli was circumspect.
"I want to firstly thank the Prime Minister for the well wishes and congratulatory remarks he offered our party," La'auli said.
"We apologise for not inviting him to the launching of our party. We've only registered our political party. But there are more days ahead where we can meet."
La'auli also extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to "lend a hand" if he wants.
As for the manifesto, La'auli said it was written based on the wishes of the constituencies and voters.
"The points that we have revealed in our manifesto, is not something that we came up with. These are the views of the members of the public and the constituencies that we have collected and put together," Laauli said.
"The three main points we highlighted in our manifesto, is what the 50 constituencies want; those are their views."
For example, La'auli said there is general for the idea of limiting the term of a Prime Minister.
"They (members of the public) do not want to leave the Prime Minister's term without control," La'auli told the Samoa Observer.
"They suggested that we should limit the P.M.'s term to only two years. In their opinion, this is why all these things are happening now, the longer someone stays in office, more problems will rise, as we have seen.
"There has been a lot of conflicts between the leader of the country, churches and also with the people regarding new bills and laws, so as conflicts between the country and the Parliament.
"That is why, I decided to stand up against the Electoral law in the first place. I was arguing to return the seat of Saleaula, because it will take away and minus one seat for us in Savai'i."
La'auli also explained why they have offered to abolish the taxing of Church Ministers alofa.
"From our point of view, that is a breach of the Constitution. That is what most of the constituencies want, to revoke this law. Because in their opinion, it is not in line with the Constitution as it says, Samoa is founded on God, and now they are taxing church ministers," Laauli said.
"For the three bills currently before Parliament, there were no official consultations done with the country, they were done by force. There was no original consultation. If they did that (consultations) we would not hear this much noise from the people (regarding the three bills). "But now they are forcing it."
The former Speaker of Parliament said their manifesto was based on those concerns.
"The longer someone is in office to lead the country, it will make him inconsiderate of the people's rights and opinions."
He also scoffed at the claims by Tuilaepa that the party is trying to woo in voters with their manifesto.
"We do not need to score any points," La'auli said. "Why would we need to do that, when these are the opinions and views of our constituencies? What our people say, and what our constituencies say, that is what we delivered to the nation.
"It is not our opinions and it is not up to us, it is up to the country. Those are the three points we presented to kick-off start with; only three points. But we have a thousand points, but we only delivered three points to start our party with."
Moreover, La'auli said, they did not come up with these policies for their own benefit.
"The point about limiting the Prime Minister's term was not made because I am hoping to become a Prime Minister, that's a decision for the country to make. God chooses! What they are also saying about how I am dragging this in accordance to my time, this is not done specifically for me and my time.
"No, i object to that. We plan according to the people and the right time; whatever is perfect for the people."
La'auli said Samoa should follow the United States when it comes to the terms for the President.
"If America is doing so well with limiting the term of President to only two terms, so as American Samoa, why don't we follow?
"It will ensure good governance and to take into account the voice of the people. If you become Prime Minister because the people voted for you, we should give people the opportunity to vote again. Instead of using the power of the political party just to choose you again until your time is up."
Again, he reiterated that their plans are not made fitting for them, but for the nation.
"It is not about me, it is about the future and the country. It is also not about him, it is about the voting and opinion of the people.
"That is the mantra behind our manifesto. Our concern is, give people the opportunity to decide and vote. What's happening now is, one party state, one party system, controlled by one person. We do not want that to happen in the future. These are only starting points."
As for the comments by the P.M. saying the new party is trying to find favor with the voters, La'auli said that is not the case for them.
"That is his own interpretation, the only person whom we want to find favor with is God.
"We have to please God first and foremost."
La'auli went on to defend the only denomination that is against the taxation law, the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa (C.C.C.S.).
He backed the C.C.C.S's stance saying it reminds the government "to do the right thing."
"The only denomination against this law, is the first denomination who accepted Christianity in Samoa.
"With all due respect to the other churches, but the arrival of the L.M.S. church into Samoa, was something that was prophesied by our ancestors, to wait on the heavens for a crown for your kingdom. The C.C.C.S.'s stance is to remind the government that what they are doing is wrong."
Said La'auli, it is wrong for us to offer and donate for the Lord, and then take it back.
"With due respect to the Catholic and Methodist faith, I know their support derives from the respect they have for the government's law, they support out of respect.
"But for the C.C.C.S. there should be at least one church to remind the government that not all laws they make is correct and righteous. "There are so many laws we have now that have been amended and review because not all the time we make laws are perfect and complete.
"And now he is saying that we are trying to find favor. We are not trying to find favor with anyone else but God, to try and control the mistake that has been done and that is the truth.
"And I can not back out from this. We have to honor God in our constitution: Samoa is founded on God."
La'auli reiterated that "Samoa is founded on God" is not reflected in the Constitution because of the taxation law.
"They keep saying that we are founded on God, but we are not honoring God in our effort and our contribution that we give to God. Now that we are trying to take away what has been offered for the servants of God."
In saying that, La'auli said we should remember that the different churches and denominations in Samoa have different guidelines and principles.
"It is not the same for all denominations. Some denominations are based overseas, they have employers and employees. Their church ministers are employed by the church that is why they (should) pay tax.
"For C.C.C.S., their Church Ministers are not employers, these people have offered their life to serve the church, they are not being paid. "For us, the congregation, we offer from our hearts to offer help and to keep the feagaiga (covenant) they made with the Church Minister.
"I stand boldly along with this party, to revoke that law."
Again, he made a bold statement that their manifesto was based solely on the opinions of the people, church, and members of the public.
"There was also no original consultation of this law. Not all the church ministers had the chance to voice their opinions. It was done forcefully and was processed urgently by Parliament. No Parliamentary Committee was set up to review the law.
"That is why I say that it was not properly reviewed."
He also explained why F.A.S.T. want to highlight and recognize the contribution by Samoans living abroad.
"That is what the people of country who are living overseas told us.
"They said: "La'auli and our political party, please recognize our rights, contributions and service to the country."
"We get $10million a week from remittances, from our people living all around the world.
"We have to return the respect for our people living overseas and those who serve our country from overseas. That is why we want to consider their voice and right to vote in the election, give them the opportunity to choose our leader."
Lastly, La'auli used the opportunity to send a message to Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
"Take is easy!" La'auli said.
"Leave our boat alone, we are just starting. Be calm as the eyes of the people are on us.
"Whatever has been said, we forgive and forget.
"We wish you well on the upcoming election. Let us be fair and be respectful as gentlemen because the whole country is watching.
"It is not good to portray discrepancies and dwell in misunderstandings because we do not want all that to unfold before our beloved country's eyes."