Commission of Inquiry ordered by Prime Minister
An eleventh hour twist, on the eve of the dissolution of the 16th Legislative Assembly, saw Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi order a Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of four Members of Parliament over their absence and alleged “treasonous” acts.
The motion was seconded by Cabinet Members to investigate: Former Speaker, Laauli Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt; former Deputy Prime Minister, Lotofaga M.P. Fiame Naomi Mataafa; Urban West M.P., Faumuina Wayne Fong and Salega East M.P., Olo Fiti Vaai. The inquiry is called to look in to whether the quartet violated Parliament's standing orders, including absences from Parliamentary sessions.
“The impetus behind this motion is to protect the integrity of Parliament, which has been tarnished during the final moments of the Legislative Assembly,” said the Prime Minister.
The motion is in line with section 65 of Parliament's Standing Orders, added the Prime Minister.
“For the weeks of Parliament prior to the General Election where Members of Parliament Laauli Leuatea, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong’s absence from Parliament, violating Standing Orders, hence the motion for a [Commission of] Inquiry.
“They did not attend Parliamentary sessions between 19 January 2021 to 2 March 2021, without legitimate reasons and without official approval from the Speaker of the House; they conducted their election campaigns for their political party instead of attending Parliament sessions, as they held these election campaigns during Parliament sessions; in violation of section 24 and 25 of Parliament's Standing Orders."
The Prime Minister outlined the work ahead for the Commission of Inquiry, namely to consider the quartet's absence from Parliament from 19 January-2 March without official approval from Speaker; also making false claims against Members of Parliament on social media; holding roadshows and misleading the public in relation to development projects as well as “treasonous” acts by the four M.P.’s.
The Independent Committee members will consist of a retired Judge, Ombudsman and Private Senior Lawyer; the Committee will have authority as stipulated under the Commissioner of Inquiry Act 1964. The Special Committee will submit their report within three months to the Legislative Clerk.
In response Laauli appealed to the Speaker of the House for an opportunity to counter the motion by the Prime Minister, but the Speaker denied it stating it was against Standing Orders.
“The Prime Minister has the authority to do whatever he wants to us. Why are we being treated as prisoners whereas Parliament can go ahead with its decisions, without any consideration for us?” asked Laauli.
The leader of F.A.S.T. continued to appeal for a chance to counter the motion but was flatly denied.
“We may as well leave, it is useless to remain in Parliament, this term has concluded with pain that we will carry, nonetheless we will swallow what has been done to us. Our people have heard firsthand what has happened and only a snake will be tortured while looking on,” said Laauli.
La’auli, Fiame, and Faumuina then walked out of Parliament.
Outside of Parliament during his live feed on social media, Laauli expressed his sadness at the turn of events and urged the members of the public to remain calm in the midst of what is happening.
Laauli was accompanied by Fiame, Faumuina and Olo during the live feed on social media.