Former Speaker La’auli needs to hand in his resignation in writing

APIA, SAMOA – 30 JUNE 2010: The former Speaker, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata’ivao has to hand in his resignation in writing to the Speaker despite his surprise resignation delivered orally in Parliament this afternoon.

La’auli announced his resignation in the middle of over two hours of intense debate of the Privileges Committee report that recommended the Member be suspended for three months and without his salary and allowances for that period.

The resignation caught Parliament by surprise after the PM moved a motion to extend the session beyond 1 o’clock, to allow any member who wanted to speak and until Parliament decided on the Committees report and the MPs future.

The Committee’s investigation followed a Parliament decision of 18 March 2020, to investigate the statements made by the member when he questioned the allocation of $300,000 tala to buy a standby generator for the Tanumalala prison. The Member said the generator “was too expensive.” He tabled information to support his claims on a motion by the Prime Minister.

The Committees report found the member had breached parliamentary privileges as his statements were incorrect and recommended he be suspended.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa told Parliament that since the report recommended punishment for the Member, Parliament should also consider any mitigating factors. Fiamē said the members’ intention was that the generator was too expensive as the government was trying to save money.

She also said that the Committee’s Report pointed out the weaknesses in the tender processes used.

“She said there were weaknesses in the tender process of the generator used by the Prison Management and after two tenders were received, it was re-advertised where one tender was received and due to the delay, it was therefore accepted.”

Fiamē ended by moving an amended motion for Parliament to issue a strongly worded warning against the member and his usual privileges (salary & allowances) remain.

Early in the debate, La’auli apologized to the Speaker, the Prime Minister and Parliament. But as the debate dragged on to allow as many Members to speak on the report, most of the MPs used the opportunity to voice their discontent with La’auli’s language during confrontation and exchanges with the Prime Minister.

Most of the members spoke in support and upheld the authority of the Prime Minister and said La’auli had gone overboard during the exchanges with the Prime Minister.

PM-in-parliament
Prime Minister Tuilaepa speaking in Parliament with Deputy Prime Minister on his right.

As the debate wore on past 1 o’clock, La’auli took the floor and put an end to it and caught Parliament off guard by his surprise resignation.

“Mr. Speaker, I thank you and the Members for your compassion and forgiveness. I have already apologized, not once, not twice. But I feel for my families and constituency, before any more Member gets up and speak ill of me, I tender my resignation from parliament.”

He then apologized again to the Speaker, and directly to the Prime Minister – listing all the PM’s matai titles, “to forgive any wrongs between us.”

He then left his chair, stood in the aisle and bowed to the Speaker.

As he took his leave, Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi started addressing the Member and Laauli then moved back and took his seat again.

Caught by surprise, the Speaker tried to explain the importance of making a decision “for the integrity of parliament” so future generations will not ask, “why didn’t you do it against La’auli?” He then used the Samoan proverb “E togi le moa ae u’u le afa,” that doubted the sincerity of La’auli’s resignation.

It was when La’auli got up and addressed the Speaker again: “This is enough for me Toleafoa. I will now leave Parliament. This is enough for me.”

Then La’auli walked out of Parliament as there was a lull inside the House.

Speaker-Toleafoa
Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toeafoa Faafisi.

Minutes later, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said that everyone was taken by surprise by the Members resignation. He said he intended to get up sometime and move a motion that would make everyone happy including the member. He said he leaned towards the motion by the Deputy Prime Minister, but “It is no use now – Ua leai se aoga”. Tuilaepa later told Parliament that there was no malice between him and La’auli.

He referred to the relationship between him as the Fatialofa and Auelua, was the one who blessed the bestowal of the Tupua title of Saleapaga, at his constituency, on La’auli and he appointed him as Speaker and also as a Minister for his Cabinet.

He said he was waiting until after all the MP’s have spoken, then support the motion by the Deputy Prime Minister.

But it was all too late as La’auli had already moved and took control of his own fate.

The motion was later passed after the Speaker clarified that a written resignation will be sought from La’auli as required by the Constitution.

At the end of May, La’auli’s constituency instructed him to leave the Human Rights Protection Party and set up a new political party to contest the 2021 general elections.

His resignation today opened the door for him to do that.

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