It seems to be the end of the political road for the former Prime Minister of Samoa and Leader of the Opposition Human Rights Protection Party, Tuilaepa Sailele Maliegaoi.
The Parliament of Samoa has suspended the 77-year-old Tuilaepa and his party secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi has been suspended indefinitely and without pay.
On Tuesday Parliament upheld the findings and recommendations of the Privileges and Ethics Committee that found the two guilty of contempt of Parliament and breaching parliamentary privileges.
A complaint was filed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio. This was after the two members labelled the government illegitimate and only came into power after a coup d’état by the judiciary.
In March this year, the two men were found guilty of contempt of court.
The report by the Privileges and Ethics Committee was tabled in parliament and its outcome was debated among the members of the Samoan parliament on Tuesday for over six hours.
At the end of which, the recommendation by the Privileges and Ethics Committee was upheld with Tuilaepa and Aiafi suspended indefinitely.
It was a bizarre scenario as Tuilaepa and the complainant were not in parliament. Tuila’epa was in quarantine following his return into the country while Ponifasio was isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.
Committee Chairman, Valasi Luapitofanua Tafito Selesele clarified that the committee had a three hour Zoom discussion with Tuilaepa. Selesele told the parliament that apart from the virtual meeting, they had a written statement from Tuilaepa.
During the debate Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa talked about how this process was about restoring the dignity and integrity of parliament which was beached by the two MPs.
On the other side of the house, the opposition urged the government side to take a path of reconciliation and forgiveness. They urged the parliament to consider Tuilaepa’s long service to the country.
Tuilaepa was the longest serving Prime Minister of Samoa taking power in 1998 and serving until 2021.
He had become an influential figure not only in Samoa but also in the region. Tuilaepa lost his majority in the 2021 election but refused to leave office, leading to the 2021 Samoan constitutional crisis.
The crisis was resolved by Samoa’s Court of Appeal on July 23, 2021, which ruled that Fiame Naomi Mataafa had been prime minister since May 24.
On July 26, Tuilaepa conceded defeat and assumed the role of opposition leader the following day.