Aborted Savai'i vehicle protest triggers heated debate

The disappointment over the aborted Human Rights Protection Party-organised vehicle convoy protest in Savai’i last month has re-emerged in parliament, triggering heated debate between Members.

Speaking during debate on the 2021/2022 fiscal year budget on Tuesday, the Safata No. 1 M.P. Leaana Ronnie Posini told the parliament that it was sad to hear comments “that threatened to kill and burn them” when they were on the big island last month for the party’s vehicle convoy protest. 

He said the villagers in Savai’i also set up roadblocks which prevented them from passing through.

But the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt said he thought the Member would not raise the issue as it is currently before the court.

La’auli, who is the M.P. for Gagaifomauga No. 3, told Leaana that the day he was speaking of was challenging and the issues were complex. 

He said the M.P. should not blame the other side when the island had already appealed to the party not to visit but they went ahead.

Leaana then interjected telling La'auli that the words directed to the former ruling party were not easy to take in and asked how he would feel if those living in Savai’i were told they cannot travel to Upolu. 

However, the response didn’t sit well with La’auli who took the floor again and this time bringing up what was said. 

“The words said to your side are nothing compared to the words said at this constituency and myself,” Laauli replied. 

At this point the Opposition leader Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi intervened to remind the Members that the matter being discussed is being dealt with. 

Tuilaepa also disputed the statement by La’auli that the island of Savai’i had ever appealed to them not to visit and questioned whether roads are now being restricted for the public to access. 

However, La’auli continued saying that “the words directed to me and Fiame is burnt alive”. 

“Now listen to these kinds of words. Isn’t that why I say to move on the matter that is now before the Court.” 

The Speaker of the House, Papalii Lio Masipau then called for calm amongst the Members and asked the House to avoid touching on matters from the past. 

Papalii appealed to the parliament to speak about the budget and developments that their respective constituencies needed.

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