Former Speaker laments Standing Orders violation
A former Speaker of Parliament has lamented what he described as the violation of Parliament Standing Orders when the Legislative Assembly passed three new laws two weeks ago.
La’auli Leautea Schmidt, the leader of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.), has also revealed that they only received final copies of the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020, Land and Titles Bill 2020 and the Judicature Bill 2020, as well as the Special Parliamentary report of the public consultations on the bills, fifteen minutes prior to the third reading.
“When we got the papers, they were still hot because they had just come out of the printer,” La’auli told ET Live.
“As an M.P., you have the origin bills and then you have a copy with the amendments, you cannot rush through these things especially when there are so many changes to consider.”
The new laws, which the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, had seven days to assent, are proposing a complete overhaul of the judiciary system and the Lands and Titles Court.
La’auli said Members of Parliament should have been given more time to read the final copies of the bills as well as the Parliamentary report.
“The process was rushed. We hadn’t been given the report and yet Parliament had already started. We were well into Parliament proceedings when we finally got given copies.”
As a former Speaker of Parliament, La’auli said the Standing Orders dictate that all Committee reports, or final bills with amendments, should be given to Members of Parliament three days prior to the final reading.
“On that day, it’s why Fiame asked the Speaker that was happening was not right,” Laauli said. “It was in the order paper for the day and yet it wasn’t numbered as it should have been…”
“With the third reading of any bill, there are sections in the Standing Orders clause 106, 107 and 108. That’s where it spells out how these bills should be handled, none of this was followed
“We only got the report 15 minutes before the Ministerial statement from the Minister and statement by the Chairperson of the Committee.”
For something as serious as the L.T.C. Bills, La’auli said Members of Parliament should have been given more time to read through the Committee’s report.
“There was not enough time to read it, there was not enough time for the house to review it and there was not enough time to express an opinion on it.
“In my quick reading of it at the time, there were more than a hundred amendments, you cannot just express an opinion about something like this (without understanding these amendments.”
Laauli went to say that it took the Special Parliamentary Committee six months to seek the views of the nation about these bills. And yet in Parliament, M.Ps were denied the opportunity to do their work well.
“How can we be prepared to argue when we only got the report and the bills 15 minutes before? It was inappropriate. The Standing Orders in relation to the handling of the third reading of any bills were not followed.”
Laauli also dismissed reports that F.A.S.T. was ill prepared for the day when the bills were tabled in Parliament.
“You cannot just blurt out anything when you get these documents with more than a hundred changes,” he said. “It’s very, very hard.”
The former Cabinet Minister also rejected claims from the Parliamentary Committee that some 87 per cent of Samoa had supported the bills.
“That’s their estimation,” he said.
“But if you want the truth, you’ve got to compare the people who fronted the committee against the voting population. In my view, that 87 per cent is not tight, I would say it’s a 50-50.”