P.M. Tuilaepa says "they're my children, I forgive them"
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has described La'auli Leuatea Schmidt's response to him during a heated exchange in Parliament on Tuesday, as a "hard headed" son talking back to his father.
“Remember they are my children who were in Cabinet," Tuilaepa said, referring to La'auli and former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.
"When I see them in Parliament, I see them as my children but they are now talking back to their father, who taught them to be respectful. I forgive them."
Tuilaepa made the comments during his weekly programme with TV3 on Wednesday, where he was asked about the tension in Parliament that boiled over to a near altercation between La'auli and another senior Member of Parliament.
The Prime Minister insisted that La'auli was wrong and that his behaviour was out of line.
He reminded that two weeks ago, the Office of the Legislative Assembly held a seminar on the Standing Orders, which talked about how M.P.s should behave in Parliament.
“This includes what time [an M.P.] can take the floor, and what to address, depending on the issue at hand, the timeframe the M.P. can speak. If there is a specific issue before Parliament, you’re only allowed to address that issue or bill, but you cannot deviate from the subject,” Tuilaepa said.
He also reminded that Parliament's Sergeant-at-Arms has the authority to remove any M.P. if they misbehave.
“One of the most esteemed rules in Parliament is that respect is accorded to the Speaker of the House, when he speaks, the M.P.’s must take their seat."
He added the Speaker has the authority to remove any M.P. from Parliament during the sessions.
According to the Prime Minister, when an M.P. raises a subject and is wrong, the matter has to be corrected.
“And I have the authority to make the necessary correction," he said. "It is allowed under the standing orders which are guidelines for Parliament sessions and the most important issue is that you must seek permission before you speak.
“It is up to the Speaker whether to accept your request or not, otherwise you may sit pretty on your seat and you cannot address the floor.”
He added that Cabinet Ministers have the upper hand in addressing issues in Parliament for clarity.
“We have the correct information and we speak to explain for the respective members understanding. And the Speaker is always lenient and giving us the opportunity to respond and explain the issues.”
Tuilaepa claimed that it was only Fiame who was present during the seminar. La'auli was absent, he said.
Speaking about what happened in Parliament on Tuesday, Tuilaepa said intervened when La'auli criticised the decision by the Speaker to declare the seats for Salega East and Urban West vacant, after Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong, joined F.A.S.T.
“And that is why I intervened and by the time the Speaker was trying to respond, Laauli attacked me on the floor.
"I was merely asking whether he was given the authority to speak. So I told him to sit down, but he’s telling me to sit down, yet I am sitting and he was the on standing up."
He then accused La’auli of misleading the public.
“I called him a liar and that really upset him and led to the [screaming match] yesterday, but it’s nothing big," Tuilaepa said.
"I reiterated his background that he was Speaker for five years and deputy speaker for another five years but does not understand the standing orders but he stood up and said the world has heard that I called him a thief, when in fact I did not say anything like that."
Prime Minister Tuilaepa added that he cares deeply for La'auli.
It was not possible to get a comment from La'auli and Fiame before press time.