Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has threatened to use an “atomic bomb” to “blow up” petitions against the Government’s Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018.
He made the point in Parliament yesterday, when the second petition against the Bill, was lodged by the Ali’i ma Faipule of Tafua, Savai’i.
Signed by 93 chiefs of the village, the petition tabled by former Cabinet Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, calls for Tafua to remain in the Palauli le Falefa electoral constituency.
The first petition lodged by Saleaula was read and tabled on Tuesday. Palauli le Falefa and Gagaemauga No. 2 are among constituencies affected by the Bill, which seeks the removal of urban seats and the re-defining of electoral boundaries, based on geographical location.
“The time will come when I will address the three steps the government took to make major amendments to resolve this matter for all eternity,” Tuilaepa said.
“We’ve been independent for nearly sixty years now, and yet this matter of some constituencies having two, three, four reps in Parliament is always brought up.”
Tuilaepa said the Electoral Constituencies Bill 2018 is a move by his administration to “address this once and for all.” He said the first step was for Members of Parliament to be made up only of matai. The second step, he said, was the “one constituency, one person, one vote.”
“Now the third and final step is dealing with the issue of constituencies which have two, three or four representatives in Parliament.”
The Prime Minister accused the M.P.s behind the petitions of being negligent.
“It would’ve been better if these Members weren’t Cabinet Ministers before but people who were Cabinet Ministers should know that we don’t look at such issues lightly,” he said.
“These steps (identified above) were not easy. The Governments of the past avoided it. Why? They were afraid to touch fire but with the H.R.P.P. government, it is our belief that it is only smoke, no one will get burned.”
That’s when he said: “I will blow this up with an atomic bomb; I will not shoot it with a tu’itu’i.”
The reference to the word tu’itu’i (Samoan word for something small) was made by the Speaker of Parliament, Toleafoa Leaupepe Fa’afisi in response to a question raised by Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa in relation to Parliament procedures.
Noticing that yesterday was the second day when Parliament’s work started with the reading of a petition, Fiame questioned why the petitions were not included in Parliament’s Order of work for the day. She said priority should be given to the discussion of supplementary budget, as the Standing Orders dictate.
In response, Speaker Tole’afoa said the guidelines are clear that priority is given to budget debates.
“As for petitions, it is no secret that the Parliamentary Committee report about this matter has been tabled but as the Speaker, I believes we shouldn’t deny members of the public the opportunity to file their petitions. (Aua le fana i le tu’itu’i le finagalo o le atunu’u.)
He pointed out that Parliament’s work is governed by mutual respect (ava fatafata).
“The nature of my question is not to object to the petitions,” Fiame responded, “but it is about the way things are done in accordance with Parliamentary procedures.
“I’m talking about the Order of Work for the day, this is what we should insist on. It appears to me that these petitions are being brought before our meeting unofficially, because they are not included in Order of work the day.”
Prime Minister Tuilaepa concurred with his deputy.
“I was a little surprised yesterday,” he said. “I looked at our Clerk and it looked like he’d changed gears so I thought well with these things, there are lapses.
“I had thought of raising the issue, like the Deputy PM has done, but out of respect…”
As for the petitions, Tuilaepa said he would not treat them lightly. When the time comes for him to address them, he said he would use a “bomb,” especially given that these “matters have already been discussed and endorsed by Parliament.”
Parliament continued last night.