The H.R.P.P. and the sideshow people can do without
The decision by the Legislative Assembly this week to amend its Standing Orders – to enable the Opposition party’s deputy leader to become the Opposition Leader due to the 24-month suspension of the incumbent – will divide public opinion.
And we are not surprised that there are already accusations from within the Human Rights Protection Party, that the Parliament is meddling in the internal affairs of a political party, when the amendments passed by the House to the Standing Orders last week enabled the M.P. for Anoama’a No. 2 Lauofo Fonotoe Pierre to officially take on the role of Opposition Leader.
An article (Lauofo thankful for the recognition) in the Saturday 28 January 2023 edition of the Weekend Observer reported on the elevation of the deputy leader of the H.R.P.P. to Leader of the Opposition, after the Parliament agreed to amend the Standing Orders in order to give effect to those changes.
Speaking minutes after he took over the position of his predecessor and suspended Lepa M.P. and party leader Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, Lauofo said he was thankful for the recognition.
The recommendation for the amendments to the Parliament’s Standing Orders came from the Standing Orders, Electoral, Petitions and Constitutional Offices Committee – in the event the leader of the Opposition is suspended from the Legislative Assembly for more than six months.
However, Members of the H.R.P.P. were critical of the amendments and accused the Committee of making changes that target their leader and breaching Members’ freedom of speech.
During debate the M.P. for Satupaitea, Lautafi Selafi Purcell said he would have thought the Committee would give the political party the opportunity to deliberate and recommend who will be the next person to lead the party.
He said the Chairperson of the Committee noted the Parliament will not interfere with political party affairs, yet the amendments to appoint a new opposition leader does exactly that contrary to his undertaking.
It is great that the debate on the floor of the Parliament has shifted to the Opposition bench and put the spotlight on the party’s leadership debacle. Current Members like Lautafi chose not to address the elephant in the room, despite Tuilaepa’s style of leadership already being blamed for the resignation of three Members of Parliament from the former ruling party late last year.
Perhaps, Lautafi might want to explain why he and his H.R.P.P. parliamentary caucus have continued to delay the inception of their party’s leadership succession plan, since the party’s defeat at the last general election?
In democracies around the world, a defeat of the government after polling immediately leads to the resignation of the party leader, as an election loss is seen as a loss of confidence in the party and its leadership to govern the people and the nation.
Close to two years after the country went to the polls and was plunged into a major Constitutional Crisis after the H.R.P.P. Administration refused to concede defeat, the party’s leadership including Tuilaepa continues to refuse to hold themselves accountable to the voters including their party faithful.
If the former ruling party’s top brass think that the silence from their party faithful is a sign of acceptance and tolerance – despite the leadership anomalies that Tuilaepa and others have been associated with including being found guilty of contempt of court and being slapped with a 24-month suspension from the Parliament – they are in for a rude awakening at the next general election.
At the end of the day a strong and vocal Opposition on the floor of the Parliament that keeps the Government of the day accountable, is what Samoans from all walks of life and creed aspire for.
If you are to take a step back and look at some of the major issues that dominated the time and agenda of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Government over the past 24 months, you would realise that dealing with the fallout from the Constitutional Crisis in 2021 including the Contempt of Court proceedings and ruling (as well as the subsequent suspension of Opposition Members from the House) would feature in a Top 10 list.
So the million dollar question is why has the Parliament of Samoa dedicated a number of its sessions to resolve matters connected to the Constitutional Crisis when it is incumbent on the H.R.P.P. to get its own house in order so those issues don’t become a distraction from its core responsibility of being an effective and robust Opposition?
The M.P. for Siumu Tu’u’u Anasii Leota is correct, it is embarrassing that the Parliament had to get involved to amend the Standing Orders, in order to fill the leadership vacuum that had been suffocating the Opposition bench.
However, Tuilaepa and the Faleata No. 3 M.P. Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi told a press conference on Saturday, that they oppose the Standing Order amendments that were passed by the Legislative Assembly, which enabled Lauofo to assume the position of the Opposition Leader.
While it is within the rights of the two suspended H.R.P.P. Members to take the matter to Court, as they indicated during their press conference on Saturday, the country has just about had it with their political antics. It is a brand new year and we urge them to start showing some level of maturity by letting their party’s new leaders on the floor of Parliament get on with the job of holding the Government accountable, rather than get drawn into more months long litigation. It has become a sideshow that Samoans can do without.
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