Inquiry threatens Parliament's independence: F.A.S.T.

The Fa’atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party says a Commission of Inquiry investigating its M.P.s is an attack on the independence of Parliament and the separation of powers of Government. 

On Tuesday, caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi moved to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry (C.O.I.) to investigate the Members for allegedly breaching standing orders by being absent from Parliament. 

F.A.S.T. party leader, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt, former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Olo Fiti Vaai and Faumuina Wayne Fong were cited in the motion that was seconded by Cabinet Ministers. 

However, former Speaker La’auli says the motion clearly undermines the separation of powers between the three arms of the Government. 

He says the decision to appoint individuals outside of the Parliament to investigate representative of the constituencies is a sign that the  Parliament is being controlled from the outside.  

Speaking as a former Speaker and Deputy Speaker, La’auli says that the proper process is to appoint the Privileges and Ethics Committee to investigate the Members. 

He added that this was done in the past when he was investigated for his conduct. 

“This is a reflection of the song that we have been singing that there is no longer any integrity in the separation of power between the Executive, Parliament and Judiciary,” he said in a press conference on Wednesday. 

“We are very saddened and we feel for our country in the state that we are in where our policies, Standing Orders and Constitution are stooped on. 

“We had thought that the last sitting for this term would be a day of forgiveness and happiness but it has ended as a day of tears and heartaches.” 

Fiame, who has already secured her seat for the next parliamentary term, agrees. 

And while she welcomes the C.O.I. the outgoing M.P. for Lotofaga raised the question of the legitimacy of the investigation into the Members when the Parliament has been dissolved. 

“I don’t know what it means [C.O.I.] if you think about it we are no longer Members of Parliament,” she said. 

“I don’t know where the teeth are on the investigation when you look back it's done.” 

Fiame added that these are events leading up to the General Election and it is an opportunity to inform the country that there are no conflicts as suggested by the Government. 

“It might appear like there are conflicts but our Government is governed by laws and democratic principles,” she said.   

“The expression of opinions from political parties and their manifesto is nothing new. 

“It seems that the Government is creating a feeling that just because there are preparations for election they claim we are rebelling against the Government…it is the battles of the mind and to suggest that there is contention there is nothing like that.”  

La’auli said the assumption by the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) that they will return to power to decide on their fate ahead of polling day shows their "overconfidence".  

Faumuina Wayne Fong also expressed concern over the latest development. 

He accused the Prime Minister of ordering a C.O.I. to retain power knowing that the Parliament has dissolved.

However, Tuilaepa in moving the motion in the Parliament, said the dissolution of the Parliament should not be used as a means to undermine the credibility of the Parliament. 

Tuilaepa reminded Members of their sworn oath that they need to uphold in ordering the Commission to investigate whether the four Members breached the Standing Orders of the Parliament.

The Commission is to determine if the Standing Orders were breached by the Members by not attending parliamentary sittings between January 19 to 2 March upon grounds that were not justified. 

Secondly, the Commission is to determine if the members had not taken into account the times for sitting stipulated under the Standing Orders. 

The Members will also be investigated for making defamatory and misleading statements on different media outlets, putting Government and Parliament into disrepute and whether it is an alleged treasonous act.  

The Commission consists of a retired Judge, Ombudsman and an independent senior lawyer. 

They are to report back in three months for the Clerk of the Parliament to report to the XVII Parliament for proper remedy against the accused Members. 

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