“Sit down” La’auli and P.M. in Parliament shouting match
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and the Leader of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, went toe-to-toe in a screaming match when Parliament convened on Tuesday morning.
“Just sit down,” Tuilaepa yelled across the floor to La’auli. But La’auli wouldn’t have it, shouting back: “You sit down.”
The fiery exchange broke out after Prime Minister Tuilaepa tabled the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Bill 2020, in his capacity as the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment.
La’auli was the first to take the floor but instead of talking about the bill, he expressed his disappointment about the decision by the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi to declare the seats for Salega East and Urban West vacant, after Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong, joined F.A.S.T.
“God knows how much I love these brothers,” Laauli said. “The only reason I have raised this matter is because you have made a decision on these brothers and yet there are Associate Ministers sitting in here who have broken the law and yet nothing is done to them. Not one thing. Where is justice?”
La’auli did not identify which Associate Minister he was talking about.
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa intervened to raise a point of correction.
“The Associate Minister didn’t change his party, which is what this decision was based upon,” Tuilaepa said. “The M.P. for Gagaifomauga No. 3 understands this. He was hit by this same law when he changed his party and he had to go through by-election. These two (Olo and Faumuina) were in this Parliament when this law was passed.
“It appears that they pretended not to understand the law and now they are accusing you Mr. Speaker, and that’s the only reason why I stood up. It’s so easy for Member to throw around lies in this house… when he knows the difference.”
In response to La’auli, Speaker Leaupepe said it was sad that he was accusing the Speaker when Parliament laws are quite clear.
“It happened before, and it happened to you recently,” Leaupepe said. “If it applied to you recently why shouldn’t it be applied to these people? That’s the thing.
“Please don’t touch those things, there are people who say things and then there are people who observe. The leader of the Government (Tuilaepa) doesn’t just stand up.”
But La’auli insisted, saying he merely wanted to offer a “word of sympathy and encouragement for our brothers” and their constituents who were not represented in Parliament.
But Tuilaepa did not like this.
“Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, we called a meeting to discuss Standing orders to explain to all the members what the Standing orders say about points of intervention and points of clarifications. Fiame was here on the first day.
“We met for three days and the M.P. for Gagaiofomauga No 3 did not attend. An important part of our discussion was that if a member takes the floor to speak on a subject matter, they should focus on that subject matter.
“The second part is that they have to seek permission from the Speaker, after that they should sit down before you make a decision.
“In this case, you haven’t made a decision and yet Laauli just stood up, started speaking and kept going. He didn’t wait for your decision. Why I’m saying this is because the member has been a Speaker for a long time but it appears he doesn’t understand Standing orders.”
Turning to Leaupepe, Tuilaepa said: “Mr. Speaker, have you granted permission for us to discuss this matter instead of my bill?”
La’auli would not back down. He took the floor again while Tuilaepa was still speaking.
“You are not the Speaker of Parliament, Sole,” Laauli said to Tuilaepa. “The authority is there (with the Speaker) to monitor our words. You don’t own Parliament.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa again pointed to La’auli’s behaviour.
“Mr. Speaker, the thing is he just gets up, intervenes without asking you for permission. He just gets up and speaks to me directly; he doesn’t know the rules which are in place so that there is mutual respect in house. He’s such a high-minded member.”
La’auli in response made an appeal to Speaker Leaupepe.
“Toleafoa, you are our refuge as individuals in Parliament. There is no one else we can seek refuge from other than you,” he said. “For the Prime Minister to keep saying we are stupid and we don’t know anything, with due respect, this is not a small matter. He keeps saying we don’t know anything and we don’t understand. How can he continue with such reckless words? Who are you (Tuilaepa) to question this constituency?”
This sparked a fresh noisy exchange between La’auli and Tuilaepa, to which another H.R.P.P. M.P. tried to intervene. But La’auli said: “Stop it, leave it, rest. Find your match.”
When things got really heated, the Speaker threatened to remove members from the chambers. He said it was time to calm down and move on.
La’auli apologised to the Speaker and said he did not mean to be rude. However, as the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe should monitor Tuilaepa’s words.
“Mr. Speaker, are you listening to the words he’s throwing around?” La’auli said. “How many times has be said this and accused me of these things.
“The world has heard time and time again how he’s called me a thief and a liar please. How can you allow such claims to be made?
“Toleafoa, Sole how can you allow the Prime Minister to run amok and behave ever so rudely, what about us?”
When other Members of Parliament tried to intervene, the Speaker ruled against it and announced that Parliament was heading for morning tea.