Why is Money Laundering Bill being rushed? Does it have anything to do with a certain E.U. blacklist?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Come to think of it, the verbal sparring between the Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, former Speaker Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in Parliament was really unnecessary.

As senior leaders of the country, it wasn’t a good look at all. If the frictions within the H.R.P.P. weren’t obvious to the public before, well they’ve done a pretty good job in giving us an idea about dynamics at play there.

In any case, maybe if the Speaker and the Prime Minister had taken the time to hear what La’auli was trying to say, all that commotion that followed would not have happened. 

But then nothing happens by accident, does it? In every thing in life, we can always learn something if we take the time to really listen and pay attention. 

And what did we learn? Well it’s more or less a question. Why is the Government trying to rush through a bill in closely related to S.I.F.A. and money laundering? 

Now the verbal spat, for the uninitiated, was sparked when La’auli raised a point in relation to the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018. 

It was tabled for discussion under a note of urgency signed by the Head of State. What it normally means is that very little time is given for Members of Parliament to really understand the implications and what these legislations mean.

Mindful of that, La’auli raised a legitimate point and made a simple request. 

He questioned why such an important bill has been tabled with a note of urgency, reminding that many bills passed under urgency only create more problems later. He then asked that Bill be put through normal Parliamentary procedures, where members of the public can have their say.

But Prime Minister Tuilaepa objected.

“Mr. Speaker, there are only two outcomes for this bill. We either protect ourselves and reject dirty money or accept dirty money, implicating us in these illegal activities,” he said. 

“Is that what the Member wants? It’s a direct question to him.”

La’auli in response said: “That’s not the spirit of what I’m saying. What I’m saying is to go through the normal procedure where the chance is given to the Parliamentary Committee to consult with members of the public.”

Laauli said the Bill has serious ramifications on members of the public adding that the issue of money laundering and tax havens is not a small matter.

But Tuilaepa wouldn’t have any of it.

 “This member used to be a Speaker of Parliament. Every time Cabinet agrees on a bill to be rushed through, there are reasons. The reason for this is that global organisations are waiting.”

Now let’s pause here for a minute. What global organization is Tuilaepa referring to? Could it be the European Union, which has already placed Samoa on its blacklist in terms of tax havens? By the way, a number of countries that had initially been placed on the list have been removed.

Not Samoa. Today, this country, of all things in the world, is listed on the blacklist as a tax haven. 

Could this be the reason the Government was hell bent to silent Laauli and pass this legislation without any much questions?

Keep in mind that in our Parliament today, we have some of the most seasoned and clever politicians in the world. They are good at sidetracking attention. 

Which is why La’auli’s past as a Speaker suddenly became the focus of the double-teaming. 

 “Our work is based on mutual respect, I used to sit there while you were here, I respected you,” Tole’afoa said, addressing La’auli.

 “The reason why I’ve raised the point at the beginning is because you were once a Speaker of the House. During your time, you never raised an objection about these matters when they were brought in as matters of urgency. 

“Where were you then when you were here? Where was your opinion then?”

Tole’afoa has a point.

But we are talking about the Money Laundering Prevention Amendment Bill 2018. What does being a former Speaker of Parliament have to do with this bill?

Perhaps both the Speaker of Parliament and the Prime Minister should leave La’auli alone. Give the poor guy a break, he is no longer a Cabinet Minister and he is making most the freedom he has been given as back bencher.

What they should do instead is tell this country why this particular bill needs to be passed with such urgency? 

The way they are carrying on almost suggests that someone’s life or lives depend on it. We hope that is not the case.

Have a wonderful week Samoa, God bless! 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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