F.A.S.T. reaches quorum to convene parliament

The Parliament convened on Tuesday after the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government reached a quorum in order to meet parliament requirements following the absence of its opposition colleagues. 

The announcement of the seven vacant seats in parliament was made recently by the Speaker of the House followed reports submitted by the Supreme Court on post-election challenges results. 

There are 51 electoral constituencies seats in parliament and a quorum of 26 members excluding the Speaker should be present in order for the Legislative Assembly to carry out its business. 

The Speaker, Papalii Lio Masipau told the parliament that there are seven seats declared void reducing the number of members in the House to 44. 

“The quorum needed in order to pass laws and to meet is 23 and there are currently 25 members of parliament [in the House]…” he said. 

Papalii referred to Article 57 of the Constitution and part 34 of Parliament Standing Orders that allows for the Assembly to sit defining parliament quorum. 

 According to Article 57 of the Constitution no business shall be transacted at any sitting of the Legislative Assembly if objection is taken by any member of parliament present that the number of members present (besides the Speaker) fewer than one half of the total number of members of parliament (excluding vacancies). 

The Standing Orders also reaffirms that parliament cannot meet if the members present is fewer than half of the total of number of members excluding the vacant seats. 

The F.A.S.T. party demands a majority of 25 seats that excludes the Speaker while the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) has reduced their members to 18 after electoral petitions. 

The former ruling party had attempted to enter parliament on Tuesday with hope to participate in the first formal sitting of parliament since the General Election. 

An ad-hoc parliament sitting on 24 May 2021 under a tent outside of the chambers was recognised by the Court of Appeal despite the informal setting and the circumstances of that day, which ultimately led to the installation of the F.A.S.T. administration.

But the leader of the H.R.P.P. and former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has criticised the parliament sitting this week as being unlawful and not fully constituted.

In leading his colleagues and supporters in a procession outside of parliament, Tuilaepa stood his ground condemning the new administration for preventing their entrance. 

The party was denied entry to parliament after the Speaker on Monday notified them that they will not be sworn-in when parliament meets to table the budget for 2021-2022 financial year. 

Although the members were denied access to the sitting, the Speaker made it clear that their seats have not been dissolved. 

Papalii said there is still an opportunity to have the members sworn-in but that will not take place this week when the parliament gathers. 

Some of the reasons why he has rejected the request from the former ruling party to be sworn-in is due to their “unceasing refusal” to accept the swearing-in on the 24 May reflected their opposition to his appointment as Speaker. 

During his official opening speech in parliament, Papalii said he hopes there will come a time when all seats in the parliament will be occupied. 

He added that his prayer is for God’s grace upon all the members so they can find forgiveness and move away from "pointing fingers". 

Tuilaepa and his party had written to the Speaker seeking his approval to allow the party's unsown Members to be sworn-in by the Head of State or for the whole state opening of parliament where the Speaker gets sworn in by the Head of State and subsequently swearing of elected members. 

The Speaker has maintained his ground that by law he is the only one who oversees the oath of allegiance of elected members. 

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