Speaker objects to La’aulialemalietoa reference, La’auli takes oath twice
Gagaifomauga No. 3 Member of Parliament, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, has been welcomed back in Parliament but not without controversy.
Having won the by-election at his constituency recently, La’auli returned to Parliament officially as a member of the Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party.
He returned when Parliament called an urgent session to discuss proposed changes to the Electoral Act 2019 on Tuesday morning.
But it was when La’auli was asked to take his oath that the Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi, objected to the Member of Parliament’s use of the “Laaulialemalietoa” title.
The Gagaifomauga No. 3 M.P. had recited his oath saying that he was “Laaulialemalietoa” and that he was ready to perform his role to the best of his ability.
But Speaker Leaupepe interjected. He cautioned the M.P. that he has to say the name that is printed on the letter of appointment signed by the Head of State or else his oath could be rejected.
Leaupepe said this was important in terms of ensuring Members of Parliament are seen to be doing what is right and acceptable in accordance to the law. He went on to caution La'auli that he could be charged for making a false declaration and he could not accept him as a Member of Parliament unless he declares "your true name."
A moment of awkwardness followed with the Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga No. 3 standing there with his head down, visibly shocked.
But he composed himself seconds later, placed his hand on the Bible and recited his oath, this time using Laauli Polataivao Leautea as his name.
This was accepted by the Speaker who then welcomed La’auli back to Parliament.
After his oath, Laauli walked across and shook Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi’s hand before returning to his seat.
The Laaulialemalietoa title has been a subject of a verbal spat between Tuilaepa and Laauli during the past few weeks, leading up to today’s session.
La’auli’s constituency had called a press conference outside Parliament to address the matter.
In the meantime, Tuilaepa had the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, sit next to him, a seat usually occupied by the former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
Fiame resigned two weeks ago from Cabinet and the H.R.P.P.
In a Ministerial statement delivered by Prime Minister Tuilaepa, he welcomed La’auli back to Parliament and urged him to forgive his fellow H.R.P.P. “brothers and sisters.”
Tuilaepa also acknowledged Fiame’s service to Parliament as a Cabinet Minister and an H.R.P.P. member. He spent the majority of his ministerial statement defending the proposed bills to reshape the Land and Titles Court and the Judiciary.
Parliament has adjourned until 27 November 2020.