24 May 2022, Maota Fono, Apia Samoa. Samoa’s longest serving Prime Minister and leader of the Opposition Human Rights Protection Party, Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Maliegaoi and party secretary, Hon Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi, have been suspended indefinitely from Parliament.
The Legislative Assembly deliberated for over six hours before Parliament arrived at the decision to uphold the recommendations of the Ethics and Privileges Committee, that the pair be suspended without pay for an indefinite period.
Speaker of the House, Hon Papalii Lio Taeu Masipau, last month announced he had received a formal letter of complaint against Tuilaepa and Lealailepule, filed by Deputy Prime Minister Hon Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio.
The complaint was filed under Standing Order 178 – which allows one MP to write to the Speaker, to essentially complain about the behaviour of another. The allegations were based on a recent Supreme Court decision where both Tuilaepa and Lealailepule had been found guilty of Contempt of Court.
The matter was referred to the Privileges and Ethics Committee, Chaired by Samoa’s Minister of Health, Hon Valasi Luapitofanua To’ogamaga Tafito who presented the committee findings that Tuilaepa and Lealailepule had breached parliamentary privilege and had acted in contempt of parliament.
Deputy Leader of HRPP, Hon Lauofo Pierre Lauofo and other MPs spoke on behalf of the former Prime Minister, quoting the essence of the harmony agreement for both parties to move forward in peace, for the sake of Samoa.
Opposition MPs spoke eloquently about forgiveness and starting afresh following last years political crisis, and asked that the House consider Tuilaepa’s long service to Samoa as the country’s longest serving Prime Minister.
Lauofo requested for deliberations on the report findings be postponed until Tuilaepa is back. The leader of the opposition, also Chair of Lakapi Samoa, is this week in quarantine having returned Sunday from a World Rugby board meeting in Irealand.
Deputy Prime Minister Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio was also not able to attend Parliament today, having been tested positive for Covid-19.
The Committee Chairman told Parliament they had given adequate time for Tuilaepa’s right of reply. Vasati said they had received and considered a written submission from Tuilaepa, and then also held a 3-hour zoom session with the former Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa said the issue at hand was the restoration of the integrity of parliament which Fiame says have been breached.
The suspension of the HRPP opposition leader and party secretary means they will both be unable to participate when Parliament convenes next Tuesday to consider and pass the Government’s Main Budget for the next financial year 2022/2023.