La'auli reflects on turbulent term
Veteran M.P. La’auli Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt is in a reflective mood.
Before Parliament rises for the final time, he is thinking back on the term that was. It encompassed him being booted out of his party and forced to face a by-election only to return at the helm of one of Samoa's largest-ever opposition parties.
The founder of Samoa’s newest political party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) became emotional as he recalled all the obstacles he had to overcome to reach his current position.
The challenges, La’auli said, were never part of his plans at the beginning of this parliamentary term.
“I did not plan for this at the beginning of this parliamentary term,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“No one planned for this to happen.
“I didn’t think I was going to form a political party before the end of this parliamentary term. Initially, I did not plan to leave the H.R.P.P. party.
“My parents did not plan for this. They never thought about this.”
However, the former Speaker of the House and Cabinet Minister remains firm that everything that happened, is all part of God’s plans.
“But what happened, happened. Our plans are not always God’s plans, but His plans are always better than ours.”
While he admits that his journey over the past months has been the toughest time in his political career, he said he is happy with where he is, with the strong support of his colleagues and families.
Relying on his faith, La'auli is optimistic about the future.
He shared similar sentiments with the public in a recent post to his Facebook page.
“I remember leaving the political party that my parents, together with other founding members, helped build from their kitchen tables and their plantations to their living room,” the M.P. for Gagaifomauga No.3 wrote.
“Our families were part of that, and I was a part of that.
“I remember swearing-in as a new public servant, an M.P. for Gagaifomauga No.3 for H.R.P.P., it was one of the proudest days of my life, second to my children’s birth.
“If you were to ask me then if I would foresee today, my answer would’ve been NO.
“Seven months after my departure from Samoa’s most powerful political party, I find myself this evening standing side by side with Leatinu’u Wayne, Olo Fiti Va’ai and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, together with our courageous candidates helping to install our billboards in the different constituencies in Samoa.
“Some have rejected us because the current government has approached them, we respect their wish and move forward.
“Next week, we go back into parliament where we will be physically outnumbered; the opposing side will ridicule anything we say, they will try and shut us down.
“Now, if you were to ask me if I was to back down, I will say NO!
“We will not sit back while these bills are in place; we will not sit back when we know that someone needs to stand up against this tyrant and the injustice and the corruption in his Government.
"There may be only four people present at Parliament today, but we have 49 strong F.A.S.T. candidates, present, willing and waiting to lay down their lives for Samoa as faithful public servants.
"God has blessed our F.A.S.T. family with candidates from all walks of life, some you may have heard of, and some you don’t know, but they are ready to serve you to the best of their ability, with honesty, integrity, and transparency."
La'auli first entered Parliament as an H.R.P.P. member back in 2006. He was the Speaker of Parliament from 2011-2015 and became a Cabinet Minister after the 2016 General Election.
However, he was sacked from the H.R.P.P. in May 2020, after voting against proposed amendments to the Constitution and a prolonged back-and-forth with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.
When Parliament convened in June, the M.P. offered his resignation from Parliament after the Parliamentary Privilege and Ethics Committee found him guilty of contempt of Parliament and recommended that he should be suspended for three months without benefits.
He was then asked by the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi to honor his resignation from Parliament by handing in a written resignation letter.
However, his constituency asked him not to tender in a resignation, instead, start up a new political party.
A few weeks later, La'auli wrote to the Speaker of the House, to explain the decision from his constituency, which was interpreted by the Speaker as his official resignation from Parliament.
Leaupepe declared La'auli's seat vacant, triggering a by-election in August of 2020 where he was re-elected back into Parliament as the first-ever official M.P. for the F.A.S.T. political.
Parliament's final session before the election will continue this week.