Olo and Faumuina's Parliamentary return "tarnished"
Independent M.P.s for Salega East and Urban West say they were treated with contempt after they successfully mounted a historic constitutional challenge to an attempt to exclude them from Parliament.
The Supreme Court on Monday overturned a decision by Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, to vacate the seats of Olo Fiti Vaai, and Faumuina Wayne Fong. The court found the decision violated the independent M.P.s’ constitutional rights.
Neither Olo nor Faumuina minced their words when asked about their return to Parliament the day after their court victory, on the Soalepule program on E.F.K.S. T.V.
The M.P.s’ seats were declared vacant after they registered as candidates for the Fa'atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party for the 2021 general elections.
A panel of three judges delivered a decision that overturned the Speaker’s declaration that this move violated anti-party switching laws, ordering him to pay $1,500 to each M.P. for costs.
However, Olo and Faumuina said they were not "officially notified" to return to Parliament despite having been sent an official letter in October when their seats were vacated.
"We were so disappointed that they took our return to Parliament lightly," Faumuina said.
"Especially because it was a big and sensitive issue for not only us but for our families and most importantly, our constituencies."
The M.P.s ultimately arrived back just in time to record dissenting votes against three bills restructuring the nation’s judiciary, which passed into law the day after they won their court case. It did so against their objections and those of two opposition colleagues, with 41 members of the party of Government voting for the bill.
Faumuina said the Speaker was unapologetic towards them during his welcoming remarks in Parliament.
"Hearing what the Speaker said, he was implying that the court's decision did not fall in line with what he wanted to happen,” he said,
"He did say that he was hoping that the court would be mindful of their relationship and respected the decision by parliament to vacate our seats because of their interpretation of the Electoral Act.
"Which was something that did not sit well with us because the two bodies are independent. If this is what he (Speaker) believes in, then we should be worried about the future of our country.
"This is because they are indicating that the judiciary should make decisions to go in line with the decisions made by Parliament, but not according to what the law and constitution say.
"It's as if he was implying that the court should respect any decision made by Parliament or Cabinet, even if it's against the law.
"No one wanted to admit that they were wrong and that they made the wrong decision of vacating our seats.
"But we are happy and grateful that we achieved what we were fighting for. We believed from the very beginning that the decision they made was unnecessary and unlawful."
According to Olo, what happened was a lesson learned for all parties involved.
Turning to the Speaker and Government, Olo said that they should learn from what happened and should refrain from making decisions "unlawfully."
"The victory is not for us, but for God. We are just vessels used to bring out the truth,” he said.
"But as it says in Proverbs 26:3, Guide a horse with a whip, a donkey with a bridle, and a fool with a rod to his back!
"That is the message for us."
Furthermore, Olo said the court's decision has proved that not all decisions made by "Leader of Parliament House" is not entirely lawful.
"We learned from what happened that just because he is the Leader of Parliament House, it does not mean that he fully understands the law. It also proves that not all decisions he makes are lawful,” he said.
"The whole country can see the proof. No one is above the law.
"If they want to challenge the decision again, we still have time to do that.
"But it was funny how things unfolded that day. We went to Parliament, without official notice to notify us that we are back in Parliament.
"Just like how they sent an official notice to notify us that they have vacated our seats. We waited for a letter, but then we found out that the Parliament sitting is only for one day, so we didn't want to wait anymore and went ahead and attended on Tuesday.
"This is the first time a case has used this part of the constitution to challenge a decision made to Members of Parliament.
"On the day of [Parliament’s] meeting, I was expecting the Speaker or the Prime Minister, to sincerely apologise to our constituencies because of what happened.
"Because we were not the only people who suffered the consequences of the decision they made.
"Our constituencies' reputations were also tarnished and they were also affected. But we all saw what happened and it was clear that they looked down upon Salega No. 2 and Faleata No. 2
"That's all I can say."
Both M.P.s took the opportunity to apologise to their respective constituencies for what happened.