Olo laments bills rushed through one-party Parliament
Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai, has criticised the decision by the Government to redraft parts of the Electoral Act months before the 2021 General Election.
He also lamented the absence of robust debate in the one-party state Parliament, saying the decision is a reflection of bills that are rushed and are politically motivated to suit the Government.
On Monday this week, a legal challenge against the Electoral Act 2019 brought by Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Papalii Panoa Tavita was withdrawn. Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren said the two parties had come to an agreement for the complainants to withdraw their application and for the Government to amend parts of the Electoral Act 2019.
A memorandum signed between the parties remains confidential until the changes are made.
Without knowledge of what was agreed upon, Olo believes the lawsuit and what was revealed during the hearing about how laws are drafted and passed reflects the one-party state nature of Parliament. He lamented the absence of robust debate before bills are passed.
“Not only are the bills rushed but this also reflects the kind of legislation from the current government that amends law to the advantage of one or two people,” he said.
“This is also the disadvantage of suppressing M.Ps from voicing opinions and objective views in Parliament discussions where the Government takes the floor to correct us. But now we know those points of clarifications are not even correct, they are wrong and this is an example of that.”
The Independent M.P. then took aim at Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi's claim that the Government is full of laui'a (big fish). Tuilaepa has often stated that this is why the Government is hardly wrong because there are so many smart people in there.
But Olo disagreed.
“Now we know they are only big [in size] but there is no meat,” he said. “These amendments are discussed by the ruling party before it gets to Parliament and this is quite an embarrassment to have the legislation from the 45 H.R.P.P. M.Ps redrafted like this.”
Olo congratulated those that filed the application to challenge provisions of the Electoral Act.
However, he feels that the timing of the legal challenge will give the ruling party an opportunity to fill up loopholes in the law claiming it could further disqualify other candidates.
He said the right “political timing” would be after the nomination period in October when there would be little time to amend the law.
The lawsuit was filed by candidate Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Papalii Panoa Tavita against the Electoral Act 2019 alleging the legislation to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.
In his evidence before the Supreme Court, Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio said the office had plans to redraft the Electoral Act that mistakenly exempts all sitting M.ps from a central qualification for candidacy in April’s election.
The intention was to give exemptions for just Papali'i Niko Lee Hang and Faumuina Wayne Fong who happen to be the current members representing the Urban West and Urban East seats.
But Faimalo admits that the legal language does not clearly reflect this.
The proposed redraft would include the words “urban seats” to describe the kind of sitting M.P. which is exempt from the monotaga requirement, Faimalo told the Court.
“In 2021, these constituencies will be no more and what we are proposing now through an amendment is a redraft of this provision […] to reflect clearer the intention that was behind it,” he said.
He argued that if the current law is read with the intention his office had in writing it, the matter is clear, but that “the way it has come out does not reflect that rationale.
“The more conversation and discussions of this particular provision of the Electoral Act, the more clearer it becomes that the intention of the policy behind this provision has not been well reflected in the provision as it is now in the Act.”
An attempt has been made to get a comment from the Government through the Press Secretariat.