SAMOA OBSERVER – By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia – Ah Tong, 03/03/2021
The official dissolution of the XVI Legislative Assembly will happen on Wednesday morning bringing to an end a six-week sitting that began on 19 January.
The ceremonial sitting will be attended by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, diplomatic corps and invited guests.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi and Incumbent Members of Parliament will also be present.
Following the dissolution of Parliament on Wednesday, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers will switch the Government to caretaker mode to await the outcome of the April 9 General Election.
During closing speeches by the Members of Parliament in the past weeks, where the Supplementary Budget 2020/2021 was also debated, the Members focused on developments in their constituencies or by the Government during their tenure.
In their public appeals, the legislators also reached out to their constituents to retain their support, promising more developments in the future.
Some of the Members used the opportunity to accuse and make personal attacks on opponents.
An issue of contention that appeared to dominate discussions in the House in recent weeks were accusations directed at the quartet of Independent Members of the newly established Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, and their criticism of the Government’s performance during their roadshows on Upolu and Savai’i.
Despite threats to remove the four Independent M.P.s who are aligned with F.A.S.T. – for breaching Parliament’s Standing Orders with their absence – this did not prevent the new political party from rolling out their roadshows across the country.
The Members, who were labelled “rebels” for their critical views and going out in to the community with their roadshows, appeared unfazed by the mounting criticism by Government-aligned Members.
And as the F.A.S.T. party leadership and candidates held their roadshows in the various constituencies between Parliamentary sessions, the ruling H.R.P.P. leadership commissioned major infrastructure projects, using the opportunities to fire shots at their opponents.
At one point both parties were in one village on the same day with the villagers welcoming the competition from the country’s decision-makers.
It was also during the sitting of Parliament that the M.P. for Lefaga and Faleaseela passed away while in New Zealand for medical treatment.
It was only last week that Cabinet Ministers began to respond to concerns and issues raised by Members during discussions on the passed 2020/2021 supplementary budget.
Unlike previous sittings of the Parliament where Cabinet’s response normally starts from the last Minister sitting in front of the Chamber, Prime Minister Tuilaepa decided it was time to start from his right-hand Minister.
Former Minister of Health, Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama was given a standing ovation as he became the first Minister to respond, his last address also marking his official retirement from Parliament. He retired as Minister of Women, Community and Social Development.
The Government’s response last week saw the sessions go into the evening with Parliament’s session extending to 10pm at one point.
Despite the Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi appealing to Members to address the House from the start of the sitting in January, the speeches by the Members often descended into heated arguments, drawing interjections from all around the Chamber.
The time taken up by the Members’ numerous interjections and points of clarification led to the Speaker ordering Ministers to refrain from making speeches on matters that were outside their ministerial responsibilities.
Leaupepe also directed some Ministers to keep their responses simple and short to save time and avoid Members interjecting to speak on issues that had already been addressed by the House.
The Speaker, who will also be retiring from Parliament after the dissolution of the House, will formally make his exit with three other veteran Parliamentarians.
They are Falealupo M.P. Aeau Peniamina Leavaiseeta, M.P. for Gagaemauga No.2 Fa’asootauloa Pati Taulapapa and Minister of Women, Community and Social Development Leao Dr. Talalelei Tuitama.