“We are not fools” P.M. tells off M.P.

MK
By Mata'afa Keni Lesa, 29 January 2019

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi raised his voiced and berated Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3, La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao, in Parliament on Tuesday night.

“We are not fools,” Tuilaepa said. “Don’t mislead the country. The people who drafted this law are not fools, they did a lot of work.”

The Prime Minister reacted during the third reading of the Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 where La’auli, a former Speaker of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, objected.

Referring to the fact the Bill when passed would repeal the Constituencies Act 1963, La’auli criticised the Minister of the Electoral Office, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u and the Chairman of Parliament’s Standing Orders, Electoral, Petitions and Constitutional Officers Committee, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti.

“I have noted with sadness that not one recommendation given by the Committee has been taken onboard by the Minister,” La’auli said, referring to the bill before Parliament. 

“We had also expressed our concerns to the Committee because this has a huge impact on us from Savai’i. It’s not easy, the people of Savai’i are listening.”

The Bill in question, La’auli pointed out, has huge ramifications in terms of the representation of Savai’i in Parliament since it effectively removes one M.P.

“The law of 1963 is about to be repealed. Not a single thing from the views expressed has been taken on board yet the Committee had been meeting for nearly four months,” La’auli said.

“Where have you dumped our opinions and the views we expressed? Where have you discarded the wishes of Savai’i? This is not an easy matter where you have effectively removed one Member of Parliament from Savai’i and added four for Apia (Upolu). Mr. Speaker this is not a matter to be taken lightly.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa interjected, defending the process.

But La’auli would not be persuaded.

“I’m so sad,” Laauli said. “At the beginning of this Parliamentary sitting, we came from Savai’i as a complete group, but I am ashamed that we are returning with one seat missing.”

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Prime Minister Tuilaepa again took the floor. He told Parliament the amendments in the bill are the “final phase” of the multiple phase reform programme the Government started 28 years ago.

The reforms included universal suffrage, increasing Cabinet Ministers to 13, a referendum on the question of an Upper house and Lower House, increasing the Parliamentary term from three to five years, having one MP per constituency and the one man, one vote system.

“But this is the final amendment,” Tuilaepa said. “This is to clean up electoral boundaries. The traditional and cultural boundaries are not affected, that remains. 

“We are only re-adjusting the electoral boundaries to achieve the balance. It is not right when you have a constituency of 200 people with one Member of Parliament and one with 5,000 and yet they also have one Member of Parliament.” 

Addressing La’auli, Tuilaepa said: “Mr. Speaker, it’s not about your voice being loud, you have to look at the totality of what’s being done. Our culture and traditions are not affected; it’s only the number that needs to be balanced.”

Tuilaepa then reminded La’auli that if he had expressed his opinion to the Committee, who in turn pass their report to the Minister and the Minister to Cabinet, “then whatever Cabinet decides, that is it.”

 “This is not an unimportant matter; it has been on the agenda of this party for many, many years.”

Still Laauli remained unimpressed.

“It’s only a humble request,” he responded. “Simply put, one MP from Savai’i has been removed.”

That’s when Prime Minister Tuilaepa raised his voice.

“Mr. Speaker, we are only removing it but Leauva’a remains,” he said. “We are not fools. Don’t mislead the country. 

“Leauva’a is here (Upolu) now but they are still people from Savai’i. The people who drafted this law are not fools, they did a lot of work.”

The Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 was passed yesterday, which means the Constituencies Act 1963, has been repealed.

A vote was taken in Parliament where 44 members voted in favour except for La’auli and Olo Fiti Va’ai who voted against. Parliament has been adjourned until 19 March 2019.

MK
By Mata'afa Keni Lesa, 29 January 2019

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