Olo, Leatinuu ousted; seats vacant

Two parliamentary seats have been declared vacant after their sitting independent M.P.s nominated to run for the Faatuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party at the next election. 

Salega No. 2 Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Vaai, and Faleata No. 2 Member of Parliament, Faumuina Leatinu'u Fong were served with an official letter from the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, on Thursday.

The decision was made under anti-party switching laws. It means voters in both seats will not have a representative sitting in Parliament for the final two sittings of this term of Parliament, next month and January next year. 

But speaking to the Samoa Observer, Olo said the decision was not a surprise and that both M.P.s have been preparing to challenge the decision.

The letter, dated October 28, 2020, from the Speaker of the House was attached with a letter from the Electoral Commissioner dated October 27, 2020, confirming Olo and Leatinuu were incumbent independent Members of Parliament who had since registered as F.A.S.T. candidates. 

The notice from the Speaker of the House saying the M.P.s had switched allegiances has been denied by Olo.

“We have been given the letter that the seat is vacant and to me, I deny this because like I said before, I am still an independent member,” he said.

“My registration is for the next election. That’s one thing why I deny [this ruling],” he said.

“Two, I don’t agree with the process the Speaker has taken. This has to be declared officially in Parliament as per standing order process.

“There is a motion and the motion needs to be approved and this is the proper official way of things.”

The letter says that all benefits provided Members of Parliaments currently afforded to the two independent members will now also cease.

Olo said the matter has been handed over to their lawyers who will voice their concerns.

“I have my constitutional rights and once I take up my constitutional rights, only the Supreme Court can make my constituency’s seat vacant,” he said.

Olo said that his concerns are mainly with the processes taken. Should his seat be declared vacant by the Supreme Court, he will accept it with satisfaction knowing “proper” processes had been followed.

He is referring to Article 47 of the Constitution of Samoa that states: “All questions that may arise as to the right of any person to be or to remain a Member of Parliament shall be referred to and determined by the Supreme Court.”

Earlier this month, The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed the seat of an independent M.P. will be declared vacant if they announce allegiance to another party.

"[The relevant standing order] provides that once a Member has taken the Oath of Allegiance as an independent member, they are recognised as an independent member for the rest of the parliamentary term," said Tiatia, in response to queries from the Samoa Observer.

"If within the Parliamentary term they wish to change their independent status to join a party, that permits the seat to become vacant."

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