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Law change to stablise H.R.P.P., Afualo claims

The leader of the Tautua Samoa Party, Luagalau Dr. Afualo Salele, has added his voice to criticisms of a new law requiring Members of Parliament who leave their political partiesm to return to a by-election, as opposed to being allowed to stay in Parliament as independents.

The law came into force on Tuesday after the amendments to the Electoral Act 2019 were passed in Parliament under a notice of urgency signed by the Head of State.

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Luagalau described the amendment as an “injustice."He said this specific amendment was put in place to stabilise the ruling Human Rights Protection Party and stop anymore members from leaving.

“The Prime Minister announced last week they are moving to close the loopholes and seven days later it is law," Afualo said. 

This shows the H.R.P.P.’s dominance and their ability to make laws on the go to suit their needs, the former Member of Parliament said.

Days after the Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Member of Parliament for Lotofaga resigned from H.R.P.P. and became an independent member, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi announced the government was moving to close “loopholes” in legislation designed to stop M.P.s from crossing the floor of Parliament and leaving their parties. 

“Interesting how the Prime Minister made the announcement publicly over this and seven days later, without any public consultation the law is approved," Afualo said. 

"What has our country come to? The Prime Minister wakes up and realizes there is a need to change the law and changes it without consulting the people that will be impacted by this."

According to the Party Leader, the new law says that a member’s seat is vacant if: a Member of a political party resigns, withdraws from or changes his or her political party during a Parliamentary term; or an independent Member joins a political party during a Parliamentary term.

“So how is this any different from candidates running for office as independent members and then pledge their allegiance to the party of their choice after they have won? The government should remove that aspect of the law to ensure fairness, if they are going to hold M.P.’s against their will if they want to leave,” said Afualo. 

"As I said earlier this specific area of the law was put in to ensure the stability of the ruling party after the exit of the former Deputy Prime Minister.” 

The Samoa Observer reached out to the Office of the Press Secretary for comments on the issue via email. 

To date, three M.P.s have exited the H.R.P.P.. They are Faumuina Wayne Fong; Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidts and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa. 

During his weekly programme last week, the Prime Minister spoke of the weaknesses in legislation designed to promote party loyalty. He said the Government was considering amending legislation to make sure party M.P.s remain loyal to their parties for a full Parliamentary term. 

"Fiame was there when we designed the legislation," Tuilaepa said. "It was done so we (can) maintain the unity and peace within the government of Samoa. It has kept the peace and unity within the party and government for so many years.

"However, tensions started to rise when people who could not achieve what they wanted to get in the beginning decided to leave."

 

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