F.A.S.T.'s mission unstoppable: La'auli

The leader of the Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) has dismissed claims he is neglecting his Parliamentary duties, telling party supporters on Wednesday that they were on an "unstoppable" mission.

La'auli Leuatea Schmidt who is in Savai'i for the latest installment of F.A.S.T.'s roadshows said the party's campaigning was important to collect feedback from voters to craft a party manifesto. 

La'auli said he was "unbothered" by claims from the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi that he was "deceiving" the country and dishonouring his Parliamentary oath.  

"As they say, the show must go on," La'auli told the Samoa Observer on the sidelines of a party gathering on Wednesday, at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa, at Matavai Safune on Wednesday. 

Responding to criticisms by Tuilaepa, La'auli said that he was not worried about being absent from Parliament as he had gone through proper channels before taking absence. 

"I submitted a formal letter informing the Speaker of the House that I will be absent from the Parliament meeting for two weeks," said La'auli. 

"As you know, our plan to come to Savai'i is something that was planned by our party for quite some time. And we did not want to wait or change our plans because they (the government) are delaying the dissolution of this parliamentary term. 

"To me, that is what you call contempt of Parliament. But he cannot say that what we're doing is contempt of parliament because I did submit an excuse letter to Mr. Speaker. 

"It's not like I just stood up and left without notifying them of my absence."

As a former Speaker of Parliament, La'auli accused Prime Minister Tuilaepa of "misinterpreting" Parliamentary rules. 

He also accused the Government of deliberately delaying the dissolution of the current parliamentary term to prevent F.A.S.T. from campaigning in Savai'i. 

"He (Tuilaepa) was never a Speaker, I was. So most of the time he interprets things based on his own belief and makes up things to suit whatever agenda he has in mind," La'auli said. 

"I call what they're doing contempt of Parliament because they are delaying the dissolution of this parliamentary term, deliberately. 

"But all they are talking about is the discussion of a supplementary budget. I was a Speaker (of Parliament before), it usually would take only two days to discuss a supplementary budget. 

"What's happening now? I will let the people be the judge of that. The way I see it, they are doing this on purpose. They are trying so hard to stop our plans to go out and meet with the different constituencies in the country." 

La'auli said Tuilaepa was "controlling Parliament's procedures" undermining the Speaker's role. 

La'auli was accompanied by fellow parliamentarians Olo Fiti Va'ai, Faumuina Wayne Fong and Fiame Naomi Mata'afa for the first and second day of their roadshow in Savai'i. 

Olo, Faumuina and Fiame returned to Upolu on Wednesday; La'auli will remain to continue leading the party's roadshow. 

La'auli said that meeting constituents across the big island was more pressing than matters currently being discussed in Parliament. 

"I'd rather come here and meet with the different constituencies, than waste our time in Parliament," he said. 

"It is really unnecessary to drag the meetings on when we (M.P.s) should all be preparing for the elections. 

"The big question that we should ask is, why are they delaying it when they should have dissolved this parliamentary term already? 

"Why are we spending money on that? If you calculate all the money that goes into making allowances for everyone, the cost of electricity, food and everything, it's a lot of money and it has been going on for more than a month now. 

"All the leaders of the different Government ministries have not been doing any work; they're just sitting there. 

"Nothing and no one will ever stop us from delivering our plans and promises to our voters and supporters. We cannot be stopped and we will not be stopped."

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister singled out F.A.S.T. party M.P.s who were absent from the chamber on their trip to Savai'i. 

“There should be 26 members in order to meet quorum for Parliament to convene. Currently, there are 50 Members of Parliament and a little more than half is required as indicated under standing orders," the Prime Minister said. 

He then questioned Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi whether the absent M.P.’s had excused themselves properly.   

The Prime Minister noted the irony of the absent Members questioning the appropriateness of Government policy when they were absent from the main forum of Government. 

“It does not matter whether this is our last Parliament session, but it’s important to attend for record-keeping and also this is where we are being judged by the Country for our service and faithfulness," Tuilaepa said. 

“This is no different for when you punch in at 8am and leave the office before 1pm yet [continue to] claim your salary."

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