Rep. Lavea told to act like a faipule, honor House Rules
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — House Speaker Savali Talavou Ale has reprimanded Vaifanua faipule, Rep. Lavea Fatulegaee Palepoi Mauga to remember he is a faipule and he has to behave himself when he's in the House chamber.
“You've been given warnings so many times, to comply with all House Rules and uphold the dignity of the Fono; unfortunately, it seems like you’re ignoring them. Your cell phone rings during House hearings and sessions, not once or twice but many times. Try to behave like a faipule and remember that you’re a representative of a district in the Fono,” Savali told Lavea.
“As representatives, it’s our primary duty to uphold the dignity of the Fono, establish laws and comply with House Rules that govern our daily tasks. Let's be a good example so the community will think highly of us and follow our footsteps.”
Savali’s comments came after Vice Speaker Fetu Fetui Jr voiced his disappointment of Lavea for continuously disregarding House Rules by letting his cell phone ring during hearings and sessions.
It was during the House Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing on Wednesday morning that Lavea’s cell phone rang inside the chamber.
Samoa News points out that Lavea was not the only faipule whose phone rang during the hearing. Committee chairman, Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi's phone also rang during the hearing.
Fetu, the chairman of the House Rules Committee, expressed his frustration with what he called Lavea's continuous disrespect of the House.
“As the chairman of the House Rules Committee, it’s my duty to make sure we are all on the same page, as far as honoring House Rules and following them every time we gather in this chamber. I’m very sad and disappointed to see that Lavea continues to take the rules lightly," Fetu said, adding that he doesn’t want other faipule to question his role as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, thinking he’s not fulfilling his task of enforcing the rules during House sessions and hearings.
“This is not the first time," Fetu said to Lavea. "I’m advising you to turn off your phone. I don’t know what else I should say right now. Maybe I will leave it up to the Speaker to decide what he wants to do with you. I’m sick and tired of reminding you about your phone.”
Lavea’s hand was already up before Fetu finished his statement.
When given the chance to speak, Lavea apologized, saying it was his daughter who was calling him from Fagaitua, about something very important.
He denied Fetu’s claims that he was ignoring House Rules and taking it lightly. Lavea promised never to bring his phone to the chamber during House hearings or sessions again.
Savali told Fetu he shouldn't give up on his role as the chairman of the House Rules Committee, but instead, he must continue to enforce House Rules and keep emphasizing them to faipule whenever they enter the chamber.
“Your duty is to enforce House Rules and even penalize anyone you know is not in compliance. Let that person face the consequences. Our House Rules are clear: all phones must be turned off during House hearings and sessions, not on vibrate either, because it will affect our sound system,” Savali said.
He then turned to Lavea and said, “Let this be a lesson to you. Bear in mind that we must act like adults. When little things like this happen, it is a reflection of what type of people we are.”
Fetu was not done. This time, he stood up and voiced a concern against the House Sergeant at Arms and other staff members, who are not present during committee hearings.
Fetu asked Savali to advise the House Sergeant at Arms and his team that they must fulfill their duties, to serve representatives during hearings and sessions.
Fetu said he was very upset when no staff member was present during a hearing when they were needed to help out with faipule and witnesses. As a result, he added, faipule were asked to act on their behalf. The worst thing, according to Fetu, when he went outside to look for the House Sergeant, he was shocked to find him sleeping inside one of the rooms during working hours.
Savali did not mince words after hearing Fetu’s complaint, and told the House Sergeant, who was standing inside the chamber that if he needs more time to sleep, home is the right place for him.
“If today (Wednesday) will be your last day, so be it. You were selected by faipule to be the House Sergeant at Arms, and to make sure you’re there whenever they need you - not sleeping inside a room. If you need a good place to sleep, home is the only place, not here at work," Savali continued.
Despite his promise that he will never bring his phone to the chamber during committee hearings or House sessions, Lavea’s phone again rang during the House Public Safety Committee hearing, proving Fetu’s statement that Lavea continues to ignore House Rules and takes them very lightly.