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House sworn in; Savali re-elected Speaker

Veteran lawmaker Savali Talavou Ale was yesterday re-elected to another term as Speaker of the House beating out competitor Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai, in a vote of 13-7. This is the second time Taotasi has tried to claim the leadership post, the first was in 2010.

Electing the Speaker is always a hot topic for the House and during yesterday’s swearing in ceremony for the new members of the 33rd Legislature, it was Atualevao Gafatasi who nominated Savali while Rep. Pulele’iite Tufele Li’amatua Jr. nominated Taotasi.

The sixty-year old Savali of Fagali’i village was first elected to the House in 1981 and has remained undefeated since that time. With these many years serving as lawmaker, Savali thanked his colleagues for their support in re-electing him for another term as House Speaker.  He also thanked Taotasi for his diligent efforts.

The swearing in ceremony for the House got underway around 12noon and the House gallery was already packed with family members and friends. At the start of the ceremony,  Fialupe Lutu, the Chief House Clerk from the 32nd Legislature, was appointed as temporary clerk to carry out the service and the agenda before the Speaker was elected.

A letter from the Election Office was also read certifying the outcome of the 2012 general election, and that all 21 members have met the requirements. All members were presented individual certification letters followed by the oath of office administered by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Besides Savali, the House members also re-elected Fialupe as Chief House Clerk and Vavao Sualoa— a long time House staffer— was elected House Sergeant-at-Arms.

It was announced near the end of the ceremony that the House leadership will begin orientation for new lawmakers next Monday.

Monday, Jan. 14 will be the official opening for the Fono to begin the 33rd Legislature, which will have just one female lawmaker, Rep. Vui Florence Saulo.

The controversy surrounding the claim that Vui was born in Samoa and therefore not eligible to be a lawmaker never surfaced at yesterday’s ceremony, although there were whispers outside the Fono building about the on-going speculation. Vui had already issued a statement declaring that she was born in Lauli’i, American Samoa, has an American Samoa birth certificate and is a U.S. national.

Samoa News reporters Ausage Fausia and Fili Sagapolutele contributed to this report.

Updated 01/04/13 at 4:49 PM to reflect correct vote count for Speaker.