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Former M.Ps to seek declaratory order from Supreme Court

When Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday, two seats will not be occupied.

The Salega East and Urban West seats have been declared vacant by the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, after the decision by Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong to pledge their allegiances to the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party.

But Olo and Faumuina are not resting. Olo said they will file a motion before the Supreme Court for a declaratory order to confirm the status of their memberships in Parliament. 

He argued that the decision did not follow proper procedure and it was done "under a breadfruit tree" as opposed to being done in Parliament. The former M.P. told the Samoa Observer that their lawyer, Mauga Precious Chang, is filing a motion in Court to challenge the order from the Speaker. 

The order from the Speaker comes two months before Parliament dissolves to prepare for the General Election in April.

According to Olo, the position from the Speaker and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly appears to be “contradictory” in relation to their presence in Parliament. 

He is referring to the Order from the Speaker and two separate letters from the Clerk that initially inviting them to attend Monday's Parliament pre-sitting and another that later retracted that position. 

The former M.P. said the Court has the authority to interpret the Constitution and they are questioning whether the taken to remove them from parliament was done legally. 

Olo referred to Article 47 of the Constitution on decisions on questions as to membership. Article 47 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”. 

It is under this section of the Constitution that Olo and Faumuina are taken to clarify if their seat was void within the legal process. 

Olo was also asked about what makes the vacating of their seats different from that of other former M.Ps who had their membership voided after crossing the floor. 

In response, the former M.P. for Salega East said the order to void their seat was done “under the breadfruit tree” rather than being declared in Parliament. 

“The difference is we weren’t given the chance to respond to the charge,” he said. “Those other M.Ps that had their seats voided admitted to crossing the floor inside Parliament when they were asked. 

“As for us we didn’t get that opportunity to respond because the decision from the Speaker was done while we are outside of Parliament under the breadfruit tree.” 

Olo added that the former M.Ps being referred to never utilised the avenue stipulated under the Constitution to challenge the order from parliament. 

Attempts to get a comment from Faumuina have been unsuccessful.

Asked if he will attend Parliament on Tuesday, Olo said he respects the Parliament of the people of Samoa and will reluctantly not attend the sitting. 

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei told the Savali newspaper that the Speaker’s ruling was based on a breach of Standing Orders and other related legislations. 

Tiatia claimed the same ruling was also applied to former M.Ps such as Vaai Papu Solia, Palusalue Fa’apo II, and Associate Minister Lealailepule Rimoni Aiagi in the 2006 – 2011 Parliamentary term. 

He said the members had their seats vacated and were returned through a by-election in 2010 when they declared candidacy nominations for the Tautua Samoa party in 2011 General Election. 

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