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Controversy mars historical moment

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SALEGA MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT: Tapuai Toese Ah Sam and Afualo Dr. Wood Salele at Parliament. After nearly four years in the House, Tapuai fi nally spoke yesterday and was accepted as his maiden speech. Photo:  Lanuola Tupufia.

“I respect you Mr. Speaker. If you had ordered me to ask the question, I would have but since you have accepted (my request for Palusalue to ask), it shows that you are a person of God with a deep foresight,” Tapuai Toese Ah Sam, of Salega

History was made yesterday for the current Parliamentary sitting.

But the historic first Question and Answer session - as well as the “maiden speech” by Member of Parliament, Tapuai Toese Ah Sam, who has been in the Assembly since the beginning of the current sitting – was mired in controversy.

It led to a heated exchange between three Members of Parliament where the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Lei’ataua, was forced to reveal the truth about his past.

“For the information of the leader of the Opposition, I resigned from the position of Speaker of Parliament,” the former Speaker of Parliament said.

“This is because I wanted to be a Minister.

Can you see how blessed I am. They appointed me to be a Minister. So I cannot say they did not reappoint me to be the Speaker, I resigned.”

Tolofuaivalelei was responding to a claim from Tautua Samoa Party leader, Palusalue Fa’apo II, during the Question and Answer session.

“Mr. Speaker,” said Palusalue. “I have been trying to hold back about these rude remarks from the Minister because I am mindful of our relationships in the House.

“But listening to what he’s been chucking at us, it sounds like he wants to become the Speaker. Now, the reason he wasn't chosen to be a Speaker again (after the last Parliamentary sitting was) because of the foolish things he did.”

Palusalue did not elaborate. The verbal sparring started when Salega M.P. and the Tautua Samoa Party’s Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Tapuai Toese Ah Sam, was called upon to ask a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Le Mamea Ropati Mualia.

When Tapuai did not get up after a while, Prime Minister Tuilaepa took the floor and poked fun at Palusalue. He joked that the leader of the Opposition was perhaps writing questions for members of his party and putting their names on it without them knowing.

Tapuai disputed this saying all the questions asked during the historic first Question and Answer Session yesterday were discussed and agreed to by the Tautua Party caucus.

“The only thing is, I asked my leader to pose the question on my behalf,” Tapuai said, urging Palusalue to go ahead and ask the questions they had about agriculture.

At that point, an unhappy Tolofua interjected, accusing Tapuai of being a smartass. He said he should be kicked out of the House if he doesn't follow the rules.

Tolofua said whoever has his/her name down on the question should ask it.

Speaker of Parliament, La’auli Leuatea Polata’ivao, concurred.

But he noted that Tapuai seemed surprised when his name was called out for the question.

The Speaker also noted that Tapuai’s response to the Prime Minister as well as his request to Palusalue to ask the question on his behalf was the first official remarks by Tapuai in the House since this Parliament sitting started.

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La’auli said he would accept it as Tapuai’s official maiden speech.

“I believe this is the first time the House has heard a statement from the Member from Salega,” said La’auli.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa immediately took the floor.

“In that case Mr. Speaker,” he said, “can you give us an opportunity to clap.”

Following a round of applause, Palusalue took the floor.

“Mr. Speaker, I apologise to the member of this side. I confirm that Tapuai is correct that all these questions are discussed within our caucus before they are brought here.

“Perhaps the member is concerned that he hasn't delivered a maiden speech and yet here he is today asking a question. Maybe this is why he has asked me to ask the question as he might be preparing for a maiden speech in the future.

“So I will obey the instruction and I will ask the question.”

But Tapauai again interjected.

“The reason I’m getting up again is because I was waiting for your order,” he said, addressing the Speaker. “I respect you Mr. Speaker. If you had ordered me to ask the question, I would have but since you have accepted (my request for Palusalue to ask), it shows that you are a person of God with a deep foresight. Thank you. I also want to thank the leader of the government for want to thank the leader of the government for taking my humble request as my maiden speech in Parliament.”

Another round of applause followed.

Tolofuaivalelei was not done though.

“Mr. Speaker, I objected about the Member asking the question but since the Prime Minister has accepted (his request), the leader of the Opposition will become a slave for the member from Salega.”

The reference to the word “slave” angered Palusalue, who fired back, accusing Tolofuaivalelei of wanting to become the Speaker.

“He has to watch what he is saying,” Palusalue yelled across the House, “the country is listening, show some respect.

Another Salega M.P, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, condemned the Minister of Women.

“Mr. Speaker, please remove the remarks by Leulumoega. They are inappropriate,” he said.

Tolofuaivalelei, however, was unrepentant.

“There is nothing to be removed,” he said to Afualo. “You are not a loser simply by me saying you are Sagone and Salega’s slave.”

Sagone is a village in the constituency of Salega.

Afualo refused to accept this.

“I cannot believe you, Leulumoega! You are supposed to nurture and protect our rich oratory and yet what you are saying is rude and inappropriate.

“Please remove these words. This is the House where we come to share our wellconstructed and educated opinions. The country is listening.”

The Speaker eventually calmed down the two members.

But when he proceeded to tell the Opposition to be more organised in terms of their questions, Palusalue refused to have any of it.

“Mr. Speaker, why are you picking on us when we are talking about the rude remarks being thrown this way? These are the remarks we want removed.”

Attempting to calm down Palusalue, the Speaker said he was just about to “address Leulumoega.”

At that point, Tolofuaivalelei took the floor again.

“This issue has become a heavy burden,” he said, going on to compare Palusalue and members of the Opposition to “small fish found in the shallow water.”

“See Mr. Speaker, this is far too rude,” Palusalue said.

Turning to Tolofuaivalelei, the Opposition leader retorted: “You are that fish from the shallow water.”

The Speaker again had to calm down the two men, urging the Minister of Women to be mindful of his comments. In response, Tolofua apologised.

“I believe I have a position far more senior that anyone in the Opposition in the church. I am an elderly deacon and that calls for me to be patient and so I will be.”

Back on the floor, Palusalue had the last say.

“This is why things go wrong when we bring positions from there (church) to try and apply them here. Go carry out your role in the church.”

Palusalue finally then asked the questions for Minister Le Mamea.

“What has become of our $5million for farmers, passed in the budget three years ago during Cyclone Evan? Up until today, three years later, the farmers are still waiting? “Secondly, what is the progress of S.A.C.E.P? How much money has been allocated to farmers? And how many farmers have received such benefits?” Parliament continues.

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