Opposition MP Charged with being absent from Parliament says he believes he followed proper process

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Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio
Samoa's Minister of Education Sports and Culture Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio

25 October 2023, Apia Samoa. Translated from the Files of FaaSamoa:  Parliament has referred Member of Parliament for Sagaga 1, Honourable Loau Keneti Sio, to the Parliamentary Privileges & Ethics Committee for investigation.

File Photo: Hon Papalii Oloipola Taeau Masipau.

As Parliament resumed for the first time in several months this week, the Speaker of the House, Hon Papalii Oloipola Taeu Masipau singled out the former Minister of Education, alleging that Loau had breached Parliamentary standing orders for being absent from Parliament.

According to the Speaker, Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio who is serving his third term as MP for Sagaga 1, had breached section 46 (2) of the Constitution, as well as Standing Orders referring to being absent from Parliament without proper notice.

When given the opportunity to respond, Loau said he believes he did follow proper procedure and respectfully denied the charges laid against him.

He apologised to the Speaker and said his absence from Parliament had no intention of disrespecting the Speaker nor Parliamentary processes.

“Ou te asu atu vai malu i lou finagalo. Ou te teena lau folasaga i le taeao nei, ou te manatu sa ou uia lava auala o Tulafono Tumau o le Maota, ae ina nei e manatu faapea ai e manatu māma le sui usufono i lau afioga..”

Loau had been overseas for medical treatment during the time in question, however, the Speaker was not satisfied that the MP had submitted adequate medical reports in lieu of notice.

O le sa fai ma Minisita o Aoga, Ta’aloga ma Aganu’u, Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio.

Section 46(2) of Samoa’s Constitution refers to Tenure of Office and states an MP’s seat shall become vacant upon; his or her death, if the member resigns, if the member ceases to be a citizen of Samoa or, if the member is disqualified.

The charge against the charismatic MP and former Manu Samoa Captain suggests Loau’s alleged unexplained absences is cause for disqualification as an MP.

The matter has been referred to the Parliamentary Privileges & Ethics Committee for investigation.

In March 2021 before Samoa went to the last general election, then Prime Minister of an HRPP led Parliament, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, had also singled out absences of four non-HRPP MPs and described it as ‘treasonous’.

Tuilaepa had moved a motion for a special Commission of Inquiry to investigate acts described as “treasonous” and “unapproved absenteeism” by Hon Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt, Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Hon Olo Fiti Vaai and Hon Faumuina Leatinuu Wayne Fong.

At the time, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly was asked by SGN for a list of absences from Parliament of all MPs during that 16th seating of Parliament.

In relation to the current stand taken by the Speaker, the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly has again been asked to provide as a matter of public interest, a list of absences of all MPs from Parliament for this current term.

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