By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi in Apia
Veteran Samoan parliamentarian and chairman of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) has criticised what he characterises as the “extreme” and “defamatory” behaviour of the former Prime Minister of Samoa since losing government.
Speaking during his programme Ia Ao Samoa yesterday, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt said he was “appalled” by the actions of Tuila’epa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his party, especially their “unfounded accusations” towards Samoa’s Chief Justice.
Tuila’epa and the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) have so far staged two separate “peaceful protests” to protest what they claim to be the “disintegration” of the Constitution.
Hundreds of people were seen marching in unison, singing together with posters held up in the air.
Some messages were directed explicitly at Satiu Simativa Perese, asking him to step down from the role of Chief Justice.
The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries believes that Tuila’epa and his party have “gone too far” with their actions.
‘Whole new level’
“I have seen that the level of criticism from them (HRPP) has been upgraded. It has gone up to a whole new level and it’s disappointing [to see],” said La’auli.
“They used to sit here while we were on the other side.
“[And] back then they have been accusing us of so many things, yet we have never gone up to this level.
“This is extreme…what we are seeing right now, their actions and the things they have said is extreme.”
In saying that, La’auli said they are well-aware of all the accusations made by Tuila’epa and his party so far.
However, he flatly denied the claims from the Opposition Leader.
“The comments and remarks they have made are not only impolite, rude, unfounded but also have gone without barriers,” he said.
“I mean, we (FAST) have got used to the way he communicates and the blaming game from him [Tuilaepa].
‘Brainwashed our people’
“But what is sad to see is that they have manipulated and brainwashed our people and exploited our people to achieve their agenda. It’s disappointing to see.”
La’auli believes that the actions from the opposition side of government are causing “unnecessary hatred” among Samoans.
“The level of defamatory remarks has gone above and beyond, without barriers. They’ve made accusations so many times before to ruin the name of our leader, our party, and myself,” he said.
“But now, they are targeting the judiciary.
“I’m appalled at the things they have come up, with especially what they have said.
“It’s sad to see it coming from people who used to lead the country and from someone who was the Prime Minister.
“But I guess they don’t care anymore and have gone as far as trying to destroy the constitution and the judiciary. They have cursed our judiciary and have come up with all those baseless accusations towards the one pillar we are relying on to keep the peace within the country
“The level of defamation is extraordinary.
“But the question is, who are they to question the work done by the panel of judges in Samoa?
“Were they appointed under the Constitution to question the work of our judges? Are they liable under the constitution to question the roles of judges? Is that their job? I don’t think so.
“Samoa’s highest courts have delivered their decision, so I do not understand why they are still questioning that.
“It seems like they are trying to imply that they are superior and that they are smarter than our judges.”
La’auli said the opposition side has been doing nothing but “wrong moves” since they stepped down.
Moreover, La’auli said, he had already tasked an “investigative team” to look into all the accusations made by the opposition leader and members towards the Chief Justice, judiciary and the FAST government.
‘Criticism has skyrocketed’
“Because the level of criticism has skyrocketed, we need to do something. Therefore, I had already called on our investigation team and asked them to go out and gather all the claims and accusations made by them and bring them all in.
“We will deal with all the unfounded accusations later on.
“At the moment we need to bring and gather them all in, and while we don’t want to waste our time to go and face them (HRPP) there will come a time where we will take all of them to court, that’s the best way to deal with this.
“We will leave it in the good hands of our police and judiciary.
“If they (HRPP) have the guts to break the law then they should also be bold and ready to stand before the court.
“They (HRPP) have exploited our people to achieve their goals.”
‘Tarnishing Samoa’s Constitution’
La’auli accused Tuila’epa of “tarnishing Samoa’s Constitution”.
“How can he accuse other people of destroying the Constitution when it has been greatly damaged under his leadership.,” he asked.
“You only need to look at all the amendments he made over the years, only to destroy and amend them again if it doesn’t work the way he expects it to work.
“So to say that we and the Chief Justice have destroyed our Constitutions is ironic. Because that’s exactly what he has been doing.
“The amendments made under his leadership and under his orders have not only tarnished our Constitution, but also the good work and sacrifice of our forefathers.”
Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi is a Samoa Observer journalist. Republished with permission.
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.