And so the ongoing saga involving two senior members of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) continues to captivate attention in wonderful Samoa today.
This week it took another interesting twist with the Supreme Court dismissing a civil claim brought by Peseta Tevaga Vaifou against La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt and others.
Peseta had taken legal action against Apulu, Schwalger, La’aulialemalietoa and Maota Samoa Convention Complex Limited, Local Partners and Associates Limited and Aldan Civil Engineering Construction Company Limited.
He had accused them of breaching the director’s duties by preventing him from participating in the decision making of L.P.A. He also accused La’auli of taking property of the plaintiff, including nonu juice and vehicles.
Lastly, Peseta accused his former business associates of breaching their contract by putting secured land at risk and for the conversion of vehicles that belonged to L.P.A. to another company known as Maota o Samoa.
On Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren dismissed the claims from Peseta. Her ruling is being published on pages 11 and 14 of the newspaper you are reading and will continue to be published until it is finished.
As expected, Peseta is not a happy chap. During a press conference called in his government office, he confirmed he is appealing the decision.
But his former business partners are rejoicing. On the front page of the paper you are reading, they are claiming it’s a decision from God and that it is the truth.
Keep in mind that a separate criminal hearing between the same parties is pending, also in the Supreme Court. Which means this nasty dispute is far from over.
In the meantime, for the uninitiated, Peseta and La’auli are both very senior members of the H.R.P.P. Whereas Peseta is the Associate Minister of the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, La’auli had held the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries portfolio until he resigned recently over charges of a criminal nature filed against him and others.
It wasn’t always this bad between the men. Once upon a time, they were the best of buddies jovially entering into a nonu exporting business hoping to make millions like most business people.
But the business deal turned sour and the men turned on each other so that their scrap has become almost like an epic TV series to follow with twists and turns that are as interesting as the people involved.
What’s even more interesting is how this dynamic is playing out in the halls of power at H.R.P.P., lorded over by the man who is capable of doing anything and everything, Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
Why Tuilaepa has not been able to bring these two senior H.R.P.P. members together given his unquestionable political authority baffles the mind.
After all, aren’t they his “kids” too? Are we to assume there is a method in thy madness as to why Tuilaepa is allowing this to drg on?
In any case, whether it was intentional or not, this ongoing feud is not a good look for Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his party.
At another time, none of this would have surfaced.
Somewhere, somehow, the well-oiled H.R.P.P. machinery would have ensured this mess was resolved amicably behind closed doors so that the party’s image remains protected.
Not anymore obviously. This time, we’re seeing a classic example of what we have been referring to when we’ve talked about factions within the ruling party. They are difficult to ignore, especially when they are so in our faces.
It brings us back to the of whether Prime Minister Tuilaepa has perhaps lost control of a party he once tightly held together?
Is he finding that he is no longer able to please everyone?
And are we seeing a sign of things to come?
Truth be told, who wants to be in Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s shoes right now?
Which reminds us of former Opposition leader Palusalue Fa’apo II.
Just before his fall, he pointed to factions within the ruling party, saying these were affecting the ability of Prime Minister Tuilaepa to govern effectively.
“I believe there are a lot of factions now within the party and the Prime Minister is trying his best,” Palusalue Fa’apo II said.
“He is spending all his time settling all these problems within the party, but he should be concentrating on governing the country.”
Well Palusalue is no longer in Parliament. But his words still ring out loud and true.
The fact is Tuilaepa has a full plate. And he is only human.
The simple truth is that regimes come and go, regardless of how powerful they become. History exists to tell us this. And during the past few years, we’ve witnessed enough powerful regimes being toppled near and far. Mugabe’s dictatorship reign is the latest one.
The H.R.P.P. has ruled this country for more than 35 years. It is a very long time for one party to rule. But are these divisions within the party a sign of things to come? How much longer can Tuilaepa continue to keep it together?