Lepa petitioners sent letter to wrong address

By The Editorial Board 26 March 2023, 6:00AM

More constituencies are opening their district offices and more grants from the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Government’s SAT$1 million District Development Project are being disbursed to constituents from various parts of Samoa to undertake community-focused projects.

These developments have not gone unnoticed and would have caught the attention of the residents of Lepa, whose local Member of Parliament, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi was suspended by the Legislative Assembly last year for 24 months.

Therefore, it isn’t surprising to read an article (Lepa petition to Parliament rejected) in last Wednesday’s edition of the Samoa Observer, that the Lepa residents wrote a petition last December addressed to the Office of the Legislative Assembly, which called for Tuilaepa’s reinstatement to the House.

"As we mentioned before, the suspension placed on our MP is 30 months in total, and his suspension means the voice of the voters from our constituency will not be heard in parliament, especially during deliberations on various important issues, as well as any proposed bill and any other legislation tabled before parliament during the time of his suspension,” the constituents wrote in their petition.

"The role of our M.P. is very crucial, including his input and participation in different Parliamentary Committee that has an oversight role of scrutinising the work done by the Executive. Our voice has also been denied from these duties as well."

We sympathise with the Lepa constituents – they had high hopes for their Member of Parliament in the current term of the Legislative Assembly – for the veteran politician to play his role as part of an effective Opposition scrutinising the current Government’s decisions and policies.

Just like other constituencies, they would have also directly benefited from the SAT$1 million District Development Project and be in a position to submit proposals for the funding of community-focused projects.

But the two-year suspension of Tuilaepa and the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi from the Parliament in October last year threw the spanner in the works for the constituency.

Two months after the Parliament’s suspension decision, constituents in Lepa foresaw the likely consequences of their Member’s suspension and decided to take the matter into their own hands, by writing a petition addressed to the Clerk of the Parliament for Tuilaepa to be reinstated.

But have the constituents of Lepa actually sat down and discussed their Member’s very actions which led to his suspension in the first place in May last year? 

We note the reference in the Lepa constituents’ petition to the Clerk of the Parliament, which highlighted the important role of a Member of Parliament, and how they saw Tuilaepa contributing to the Opposition’s mandate to keep the Government of the day accountable.

But how can you uphold the virtues of being a Member of Parliament when the Supreme Court ruled that you were guilty of contempt of court for making statements in 2021 which scandalised the Courts, and the Judiciary and undermined public confidence in the Justice system?

You cannot separate the conduct of your Member of Parliament and the need for him or her to be held accountable for their actions – at the end of the day a Member of Parliament should be a role model in the community and is expected at all times to uphold the integrity of the Parliament for as long as he or she continues to be a member of that esteemed House.

For an M.P. to be found guilty of contempt of court by the Supreme Court is a fall from grace and to be found guilty as well of contempt of the Parliament for the same indiscretions is a double whammy – in a normal working democracy the M.P. would be expected to tender his or her resignation to protect the integrity of the Parliament as well as their constituency’s good name.

But we all know what happened after the Supreme Court ruling and the Parliament’s decision to suspend the former prime minister and the Opposition party’s secretary – Tuilaepa has remained defiant and used the grounds of “fair comment and freedom of expression” under Samoa’s Constitution.

Looking at the long-term ramifications of the veteran politician’s two-year suspension on the constituency, the Lepa constituents should have directed their petition to their Member of Parliament and asked that they meet to discuss the merits of him continuing as their elected representative, in light of the 2022 decisions by the Court and the Parliament.

It is within the rights of the Lepa constituents to call for a talanoa with their elected Member of Parliament to put forward their concerns – an M.P. is after all a servant of the people.

By The Editorial Board 26 March 2023, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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