La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao as Speaker swearing in the new MPs of the last parliament
BY Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA: WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH 2016: Timing is everything when it comes to making crucial decisions and appointments, and so it was timely when the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) voted long serving woman parliamentarian Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa as their Deputy Leader.
This was how former Parliament Speaker La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao and representative for Gagaifomauga No. 3 district viewed the timing of the appointment of Fiamē to the position she now holds.
“There is no question of Fiame’s ability,” said La’auli.
“But we waited on her intention and decision as we traditionally looked at seniority within the party,” said La’auli.
“Everyone can climb that ladder, as long as they do not cross the line disrespectfully, and that respect is rendered to the older members of parliament,” explained the traditionalist who was born into politics where his father served the constituency he now represents for 35 years. His great grandfather and 2 uncles were also Members of Parliament.
However, there are complaints that several Member of Parliament such as the Prime Minister have held leadership positions for far too long.
“God’s appointment is not measured by how long someone has held a position, but by the quality and value of that service to the country and people,” said La’auli.
He believes that the Western concepts are still trying to pry into the Samoan system, “but the election is over and the people have spoken, so be it.”
Peaceful election ever
La’auli acknowledged the love of God for the peaceful end to the election, despite some international observers concern about possible trouble given the heated debate leading up to the elections.
La’auli said he had a luncheon invitation from one senior diplomat in Samoa who asked him why the election so peaceful.
La’auli’s response was “this is us in Samoa” and according to La’auli, some diplomats and other international observers seemed to have expected trouble.
“If the Opposition’s aggressive approach had indicated trouble, that was their political way of pushing their campaign,” he said.
He explained that during a mock parliament for women candidates before the election, an observer from Fiji tried to drive out the aggressiveness in women in a hot debate; however he was surprised by the end result.
La’auli also explained that the there is concern about Samoa being a one party state after the general election result.
“But this is Samoa’s normal practice from the past,” he explained.
“Even within villages and districts, there are no parties but issues are discussed and debated in the open before a solution is reached.
First woman MP to be elected under the 10% electoral act provision
La’auli’s constituency of Gagaifomauga No.3. has made history as the first to have a woman MP elected under the Electoral Act provision to make up 5 woman MPs in parliament.
After the final count of the election result last week, Fa’aulusau Rosa Duffy-Stowers was declared as the 5th women candidate to make up the 5 parliamentary seats allocated for women.
Gagaifomauga No.3 now has 2 MP’s in parliament, La’auli and Fa’aulusau.
Laauli said Samoa is moving towards celebrating her 60th anniversary, and the Government noted that there was still a small number of women parliamentarians, hence the initiative to introduce the 10% seats for women.
“Women’s contribution to the development of the country is unquestionable,” said Laauli.
They dominate high and top positions within the Government ministries, and it was only proper that the next step for them is to be involved and have a voice in politics.
“The issue was discussed 5 times within HRPP caucus and we tread cautiously because not every village have the same system, especially when women are banned from holding matai titles in some villages or be part of the council meetings,” said Laauli.
After much deliberation, the Act was passed, and he is looking forward to working together with Fa’aulusau to serve their district.
Continuing the family legacy in politics
La’auli was born into politics.
His great grandfather, Tu’u Lolesio was one of the MP’s in Samoa’s very first parliament of 1962 and later, Laauli’s father, the late Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, and his 2 brothers served as parliamentarians at one time.
Gagaifomauga No.2 MP So’oalo Mene, is La’auli’s nephew and is serving his second term as an MP.
La’auli first came in as an MP for his district in 2006 and served as the Deputy Parliament Speaker and again in 2011 where he was appointed the Parliament Speaker.
“Politic is in me and despite my wish to go as far away from politics as I could, I had to obey my father’s last wish for me to continue the family service to the district.”
When his father passed on 2000, the district approached La’auli to serve as their MP, but La’auli turned it down to give the opportunity to someone else.
He believed that the “tofi’ is not a family heritage hence is stands to allow someone else to serve, so the district elected the high chief Vaganā Tamati, who was their MP between 2000 and 2006.
In 2006, the district again approached Laauli, and he accepted and is now serving his third term as an MP for Gagaifomauga No.3.