P.M. defends Commission of Inquiry

The Prime Minister has dismissed claims by the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.)  Chairman that the Commission of Inquiry (C.O.I.) undermines the independence of Parliament, saying their argument is reflecting his "ignorance."

Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi clarified that it is not possible to appoint a Privileges and Ethics Committee because the Parliament has been dissolved.

“Once Parliament dissolves, those Committees no longer exist,” Tuilaepa said in his weekly Wednesday interview with TV3.

“And today (Wednesday) was when all Committees were disbanded, so we need a Committee of professional people from outside [Parliament] who are lawyers that understand the law, to look into this matter. 

“Then they can report to the Legislative Assembly's Clerk and present it into the seventeenth Parliament following the general election, because this must be stopped.” 

On Tuesday, the day before Parliament was dissolved, Prime Minister Tuilaepa moved to establish an independent Commission of Inquiry (C.O.I.) to investigate four Members for alleged breaches of Parliamentary Standing Orders. 

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.

The four are accused of alleged “treasonous” acts.

However La’auli, a former Speaker of the House, says the decision to appoint individuals outside of Parliament to investigate representatives of constituencies is a sign that Parliament is being controlled from the outside. 

He explained that failures to appoint the Privileges and Ethics Committee to undergo the investigation clearly undermines the separation of powers between the three arms of Government.

In response, Tuilaepa said as the Leader of the House he is required to think of ways to ensure such disrespectful and unruly behaviors are stamped out of the Parliament House.

“We should not let such insolent people drag the integrity of Parliament down with them, they cannot bend the rules to whichever way they want; that is something that I must be alert of, the dignity of the House must be upheld,” he said.

“These people are held in the highest regard by their constituencies, but it seems they are disregarding their duties and not taking it seriously. Their duty as Members of Parliament is very important. 

“This is something that the Government and constituencies must look into because allowing such characters in Parliament, for such honoured positions, may be an embarrassment for the respective villages and districts.”

With the dissolution of Parliament, only Ministers of Cabinet and Associate Ministers retain their executive positions, albeit in caretaker mode, while all other Members' roles are dissolved.

Tuilaepa lambasted the F.A.S.T. members for having the audacity to upload videos of their dancing and drinking, while their seats were left vacant in Parliament. He said it was their duty to attend Parliament and the call for a C.O.I. against them was inevitable.

“We are talking about the supreme law-making body of Samoa, it is what the people hold in high regard.

"But when we allow people who are not afraid, in such a way in Parliament, should they be trusted to make important decisions regarding the Government?” said Tuilaepa. 

Tuilaepa also downplayed claims that he had been planning the call for an inquiry in secret, saying instead that the F.A.S.T.-aligned members were just thinking too lightly of the matter. 

He said Fiame, Laauli, Olo and Faumuina were too sure in suggesting that the last Parliamentary meeting would finish in the span of a week. The Parliament meeting lasted six weeks.

Tuilaepa said the quartet may have expected to be removed from Parliament while they were away so they can use it against the Government, however, that did not happen.

Tuilaepa also criticized Laauli’s attempts to speak in Parliament after the call to establish a C.O.I. was passed on Tuesday, saying it was a political move as he is well aware of Parliamentary processes. 

“I gave them a 24-hour heads up before I made the call in Parliament. It would only take two minutes for them to ask the Clerk and he would have notified them that it would be open to discussion in Parliament when the C.O.I. report reaches Government,” he said. 

“But I know exactly why he stood up, pleading for a chance to speak; it was done to draw pity from the people, to make people think they deserved to be given the chance but Laauli is used to lying; he was a Speaker of the House for five years.”

Tuilaepa also shut down Laauli’s claims that he is dominating the Legislative Assembly and taking over the Speaker’s role, saying he does not rule all.

On Wednesday, Fiame said that while she welcomes the C.O.I., the question of the legitimacy of the investigation into the Members when Parliament has been dissolved remains.

“I don’t know what it means [C.O.I.] [because],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.” 

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". 

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