Tuala Asked Long Serving Prime Minister to Step Down Because “People Were Calling for Change”

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My decision was based purely on issues - Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio.

Independent turned FAST Member of Parliament Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio says Samoa has been calling for change, and that is why he asked Samoa’s Prime Minister of over 22 years, Honourable Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, to step down.

Tuala said he pondered over the change Samoa wanted when he approached the leaders of both parties with the same set of issues when he was trying to decide which party to go to….

According to Tuala, “Samoa has been calling for a change for quite a long time..I can’t deny that.. and I tried to think about what those changes could be..”

Tuala Ponifasio outside Court, challenging the Electoral Act, September 2020.

“Ua leva ona alalaga le atunuu i se suiga, e le mafai ona ou natia le tulaga lea, masalo o loo silafia uma e Samoa ua oo i le taimi e tatau ona fai ai se suiga. Sa tuufesili fo’i lo’u mafaufau poo le a le ituaiga suiga e fai..”

During a special press conference called to formally announce his move to FAST, Tuala told local media his decision was based purely on issues, and he had wanted to  give the leaders of both FAST and HRPP the equal opportunity to consider these issues he was passionate about.

My decision was based purely on issues – Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio.

Tuala says he asked Tuilaepa if HRPP would reconsider the three controversial Bills passed in December last year. The “3 Bills” became an issue of discussion across Samoa for several months since it first came to light when Samoa Observer published an April 2020 letter by then Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson addressed to the Samoa Law Reform Commissioner, calling for wider consultations to consider impacts. The 3 Bills were passed in December, supported by all HRPP Members of Parliament despite strong opposition from the Samoa Law Society and an opinion published by the Ombudsman amongst others.

Despite this Tuala says he asked the Caretaker Prime Minister, if HRPP were to return, would they review these new laws and give back the Justice, Courts and Administrations the Independence it once had.

“Sa ou tu’u sa’o lava fo’i i le Alii Palemia pe iai se tulaga a tulai mai le HRPP e toe iloilo tulafono nei.”

Tuala says the second issue he sought clarification for was Samoa’s foreign relations with China.

He said Independent candidates also have manifestos and one of the crucial issues for him was to understand the basis of Samoa’s relationship with China.

Tuala said if he is unable to understand it, then that means most of Samoa will not be able to understand it.

“Sa ou mana’o ou te fia malamalama poo fea o agai iai le atunuu lenei i le va ma Saina.. a faapea ou te lē malamalama, ou te iloa fo’i e lē o malamalama le toatele o le atunuu.”

He is not opposing it, but he needs to understand the policies that form our relationship with China.

“A tatou nonofo malamalama e faigofie mea uma… ae iai lo’u talitonuga, o lea ou te pogisa ae o la foi e pogisa le atunuu.”

Tuala Ponifasio says he asked the Prime Minister whether it was not time that he should step down.

“I was not satisfied with the response of the Prime Minister.. he still wanted to continue and not step down as leader if I were to join HRPP,” said Tuala.

“Sa ou saili pe iai sona finagalo e step down pe faamavae fo’i ma lona tofi ta’ita’i, ona o lea sa ou saili poo le a le suiga lea o loo alalaga ai le atunuu… Ou te lei faamalieina i le tali mai a le Palemia, o loo manao pea ia na te faaauau lona tofi palemia pe afai ou te filifilia le HRPP..”

FAST party leader Fiame Naomi Mataafa resigned from her position as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of MNRE – consequently stepping away from the HRPP party last September over her strong views against the 3 Bills saying Parliamentarians were not hearing the voice of the people on the issues.

Tuala said he knew these issues were important to FAST but he he still wanted to give both parties the chance to consider them.

“I spent an equal amount of time with both parties while I made my decision.. “

He acknowledged Fiame and Laauli had been fighting against the enactment of these new Laws in Parliament.

“O le isi mea ua alai ona lilifa mai so’u manatu i le FAST, ona ou te iloa tonu le mea o loo taoto ai le agaga o Fiame, Laauli ma le Vaega Faaupufai i le tulaga e tatau ona oo iai le atunuu..”

Tuala said he did not ask for a deal in form of money or even position, but was trying to negotiate concering various issues.


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