La'auli says "sorry", blames P.M. Tuilaepa
The Leader of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, La’auli Leautea Schmidt, has apologised to the nation for his behaviour in a quarrel in Parliament where he and another senior Member of Parliament had to be separated.
"I want to sincerely apologise to the country," La'auli said during an interview with the Samoa Observer. "People might take it the wrong way and interpret my behavior in another way. But I am sorry."
Tensions were high in Parliament on Tuesday when La’auli spoke after Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi tabled the Meteorology, Geoscience and Ozone Services Bill 2020.
After the former Cabinet Minister was involved in a shouting match with Prime Minister Tuilaepa, he then exchanged words with the Associate Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Lealailpule Rimoni Aiafi, where Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms was forced to separate the two.
La'auli did not stay for the afternoon session and left Parliament during the break.
A day after the incident, La'auli said he regretted what had transpired but blamed Prime Minister Tuilaepa for provoking it.
"T he thing is, I have had enough of this treatment from the Prime Minister,” La’auli said. "I have been saying this, time and time again that there is no freedom of expression in our government and there is discrimination and bullying within our government.
"It's like once he (Tuilaepa) speaks, he wants everyone to shut up and let him say whatever he wants to say. That is why I said what I said yesterday, it was too much for me, and he was being disrespectful.”
La’auli reminded that mutual respect is a two way street.
"How can he expect me to respect him if he has disrespected me many, many times before. Like that saying, treat people the way you want to be treated, talk to people the way you want to be talked to, respect is earned not given.
"He was also being disrespectful towards the Speaker. He stood up and questioned the Speaker if he had allowed me to speak on the matter."
La'auli also questioned the reference to Tuilaepa as the “leader of the House.”
"Under the Constitution of the Independent State of Samoa, there is only one leader in the Parliament House and that is the Speaker,” Laauli said.
"It's unacceptable to refer to the Head of the Executive as the Leader of the House. It did not happen during my time as a Speaker of the House.
"And if we (F.A.S.T.) get into power, we will straighten that out and make that clear that the only person who can control Parliament is the appointed speaker of the house."
Asked why he left Parliament prematurely, La'auli said he had other obligations.
"I did not walk away because of what was happening. No, I could not be present for the final session of Parliament because our party was waiting for me, we had an important meeting,” he said.
"That was the only reason why I walked out. It was not because of any other reason. F.A.S.T. had a conference yesterday (Tuesday), and I had to be there.
"And whatever happened in Parliament yesterday, that is in the past. This is a new day and we keep moving forward from this point on."
Pressed on what sparked the war of words between him and Tuilaepa, Laauli said he wanted to make a point that Members of Parliament should have the freedom to speak.
"If you look at the proceedings yesterday (Tuesday), there was no interruption from the Speaker during my speech. I did ask for a time, and he (Speaker) granted permission, so I went ahead and started my speech.
"And not once did he (Speaker) tried to interfere while I was talking.
"It wasn't until the Prime Minister stood up and interrupted my speech by asking the Speaker if he had allowed me to talk about the issue I was talking about."
La'auli reiterated that the Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi holds the power and authority and that he was granted permission from the Speaker to speak.
"The only reason why I started off with the decision that was made against Olo and Leatinu'u was just to convey a word of comfort and my regards to the M.P.'s who have been sacked from Parliament and their constituencies.
"The decision that was done to Olo and Leatinu'u should not be taken lightly.
"It is something very important, which is why I wanted to raise it before I moved on to the bills that were discussed in Parliament. But I couldn't finish my speech, because it seems like the Prime Minister took over the role of the Speaker.
"That was why I was very disappointed yesterday. With all due respect, but it turned out that he (Tuilaepa) was putting words into the Speaker's mouth, tulou lava."
La'auli insists he was following the "right procedures" in Parliament.
"I did not just stand up without seeking approval from the Speaker, the one person who holds the authority in Parliament.
"I started smoothly and before I expressed my views in regards to the bill that was tabled in Parliament, I wanted to touch on the decision they made on Olo and Leatinu'u because our side was incomplete.
"But what happened yesterday started because the Prime Minister kept standing up and interfere with my speech.
"I had to answer back to the things he was accusing me of, in Parliament.
"He was saying that I don't know anything that I am stupid, a liar, and a thief, you know those are huge accusations and the whole country was listening.
"It's like a story he tells every day, whenever he does interviews. He tells the whole wide world and accuses me of being stupid, a liar, and a thief, he has been singing that song all this time.”
Asked about their now infamous “sit down” shouting match, La'auli said that while he has the utmost respect for the Prime Minister, he insists that Tuilaepa "has no right to order him to sit down, in Parliament.
"He can't tell me what to do and can't order me to sit down. Only one person can do that, and that is the Speaker. That is why I also told him that he was not the Speaker of the house and that he does not own Parliament.
"The Speaker rules."