By Staff Reporters
APIA, SAMOA – 31 AUGUST 2020: It takes a few with rock solid faith, courage and resilience for a politician of La’auli’s calibre to add to Samoa’s modern political history when he came back in last weekend’s landslide to regain the Gagaifomauga No 3 seat in parliament.
La’auli’s political plight is riddled with intrigue and is cause for admiration. As a loyal HRPP supporter and as much to the Prime Minister himself, La’auli has already identified who has been behind the plot to his political demise.
After all, he had to resign from his ministerial post in Cabinet when he faced over 100 criminal charges in 2018, then sacked from his political party when he voted against a crucial electoral amendment in 2019. He set himself up as an opposition MP and scored some classy and terse exchanges including the famous PM’s “coffee invitation” and stopping both the Speaker and the former Finance Minister dry on their tracks.
Then a weekend after he was cleared of the criminal charges in June 2020, the government controlled Parliament came down hard on La’auli in a Committee Report that found him in breach of parliamentary privileges and recommended he be suspended for 3 months and all his benefits and salary withheld for that time.
The Speaker, Parliament and Government were never prepared for what was coming.
When he saw the rehearsed and concerted clamping down on his character, Laauli resigned verbally and left the House. The Speaker was speechless for sometime and the PM struggled to figure the next move as an MP can only be removed if the resignation is given under his own writing.
“I will leave Parliament on my own terms,” he declared at the time. He chose to set up a new political party and have his seat voided rather than offering his resignation in writing.
The new political party, Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa Ua Tasi – FAST was registered 30 July 2020 and forced last weekend’s by-election.
Facing the power of what he called “a one party state with a one party system, controlled by one person,” he calculated his political moves.
“Laauli inspired and energized political courage when he challenged the Prime Minister in debate on the parliament floor. His stance created a new national political wave that found favour with “a new voice speaking a respectable and compassionate Samoan language” compared to the language used by the Prime Minister.”
Historically, modern Samoan politics has never been served with one MP with the challenges in the road that La’auli had traversed. Never before had Samoa had a politician that in one parliamentary term (i) resigned his ministerial post, (ii) sacked from his political party, (iii) declared as an Independent MP (iv) resigned from parliament, (v) established a new political party, (vi) flew the flag of that party in a by election and won in a landslide.
It is the kind of material that the Prime Minister must be seriously contemplating as Samoa heads into a general election in April 2021. After all, the PM seem not to avoid talking about La’auli in his media interviews, even at odd places such as a Catholic priests retreat.
“Has the PM miscalculated and should he have handled and treated his former Cabinet Minister otherwise? Did the PM underestimate La’auli as a formidable challenge who would be capable to bounce back and in the fashion he did?”
Since registration, FAST has been making real political headway. On the day it registered officially, it hit out at the PM that FAST plans to limit future PMs terms to only 10 years if it forms the next government. It was a calculated choice of issue and the message was clear.
Flying the FAST Flag and a new pathway for Samoa
Winning last weekend’s by-election, La’auli was relieved but could not hide the pain of the road and bad experience he came through in this term.
“I will go back in parliament flying a new flag. This term is one tormented with difficulties and challenges where I walked the valley of death with so many problems,” he told the media.
“As I said previously, I don’t want any other Samoan to walk the road I walked through.
“We have to clean up Samoan politics, and let me be the sacrificial lamb for all this.”
La’auli’s constituency Gagaifomauga No 3 has been a founding member of the ruling HRPP. He and his family had been an influence in the party’s success for almost forty years and demolishing the Opposition in the 2016 general elections to form the existing a one party controlled government.
But his constituency is now changed its support to the newly formed FAST political party.
“I have been instructed by my constituency to change our political course as we seek to save our country from a lot that has happened,” he told the media.
“I don’t have to tell you what is happening as you all know. But I humble myself infront of God and pray to lay out a new path forward for Samoa.”
The former Speaker’s re-election has been confirmed by His Highness the Head of State earlier today with the official results of 721 votes to 208 and he is looking forward to returning to Parliament in the October session.