Funeral assistance policy sparks debate
The Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa Ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party leader, La’auli Leauatea Schmidt, has questioned Cabinet policy relating to contributing toward funeral costs for deceased M.P.s.
La'auli said the amount of contributions provided by the Government had risen to reach $10,000.
“I watched the funeral service online and our Government presented $10,000 [for the funeral of former M.P. Fiu Loimata],” La’auli said on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday.
“Standing policies [as I remember] for a former M.P. a total of $3,000 is [expected] for [a] funeral presentation, but for a Cabinet Minister it's $5,000. And yet $10,000 was given for the recent funeral.”
But Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said policies relating to funeral donations have been in effect since the time of the late Prime Minister, Tofilau Eti.
The Prime Minister said the donations were a sign of respect accorded to a former Member of Parliament and part of the Samoan culture.
“It was also done during our time,” Tuilaepa said, referring to La’auli’s time in Cabinet.
“This is all part of the Government’s assistance and a state funeral is not something seen regularly where the Ministry of Police’s honour guard presents the national flag as a sign of respect accorded to those that deserve it.
“And if you [La’auli] pass away, we will follow the same process.
“That is what the government does and it is after all tradition. Overseas only the flag is presented, but that is not how we do things here, it is part of our culture and traditions.”
La’auli took the floor once more and said that in the past the Government had presented $5000 for a funeral held for the late Member of Parliament, Pa’u Sefo Pa’u.
“That is why I am querying this because standing policies are that former Members of Parliament’s funerals government is supposed to present $3000 and again that is why I am asking about the $10,000,” said La’auli.
The Prime Minister responded by expressing disappointment that La’auli would “bring up such issues” in Parliament. Tuilaepa said the assistance was given to a former M.P. who had significantly contributed to Samoa's public life - something he did alongside La’auli’s own father, the Late Polata’ivao Fosi Schmidt.
“It did not cross my mind there would be criticism over [financial assistance] given to people that have passed and have served in this Parliament and it makes me question your common sense,” said the Prime Minister.
The Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, who is responsible for presenting Government assistance to M.P.s’ families said the cost changes were made a long time ago.
“I am the one that presents these traditional presentations on behalf of the Government and it appears that La’auli is shocked because this is one of the funerals that he’s attended but the changes have been in place for a long time,” Loau said.
“This is not the first time the [amount of $10,000 has been] presented to [M.P.s’] funerals, there were several others before this one [last week].”
The Speaker of the House urged La’auli to drop the subject because criticism of assistance already provided was causing embarrassment.
La’auli said he had questioned the disparity in Government financial assistance presented to the families of former and current M.P.s.
The Prime Minister took the floor and accused La’auli of “cursing” the Government’s assistance presented to the family of the Late Fiu Loimata.
But La’auli dismissed the claims and said the Prime Minister was twisting his words.
Tuilaepa took the floor again and asked La’auli why his family didn’t reject Government assistance presented at the time of his father’s funeral.