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By Felolini Maria Ifopo

APIA, Samoa (February 19, 2001 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---Is there a rift forming within Samoa's Human Rights Protection Party government in the countdown to the elections?

The Prime Minster, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, says no. But one MP has already quit the party in power, citing the PM’s leadership style as one main factor.

Now Labor Minister Polataivao Fosi is announcing his resignation because of medical reasons.

He is currently in New Zealand receiving medical treatment.

And newly Independent MP Afamasaga Toleafoa says there are more Human Rights Protection Party MPs unhappy with the party. He said since he turned in his resignation he had spoken with a number of party MPs.

"They said to me, "Why didn’t you wait. We could’ve left together," he said.

However, the Aana Alofi No. 3 MP says he told them he had to make his move and told them it was up to them when they made theirs.

He said there were at least two more MPs who were definitely considering leaving the party ranks.

Afamasaga said the support he had received since becoming Independent had been tremendous.

The Samoa Observer tried to contact Tuilaepa to gauge whether the allegations were true, but the PM was not available.

Another political development this week is the forming of United Independents (Sui Toatasi Auaufa‘atasi). Although not an official registered party, it includes 25 independent candidates and two MPS.

The closing date to register political parties was January 19, the same date the voters’ register closed. The two MPs are Leanapapa Laki, from Fa‘asalesaleaga No. 2, and Afamasaga.

Leanapapa was a Human Rights Protection Party member until two years ago, when the party sacked him for being outspoken, and so he became Independent.

The coalition of sorts is being backed by paramount matai Tuimalealiifano.

Afamasaga said there was a possibility of a third MP joining, but would not elaborate. He described it as a group of Independents working together.

United Independents will be releasing key policy principles this week, as well as a list of candidates.

Meanwhile, supporters turned up in spite of Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s comment last week that Afamasaga Toleafoa had quit the ruling party without the support of his constituency.

More than 40 matai from Aana Alofi No. 3 traveled in a bus to escort the newly Independent MP to the Legislative Office at Mulinu‘u to register their election hopeful.

Afamasaga’ committee spokesman Ligaliga Esekia said matai from Vailuutai, Aleatiu, Fasito‘otai, Satapuala and Satuimalufilufi had made the journey.

He said Afamasaga had received even more support from the constituency since his resignation from the Human Rights Protection Party.

"We have to have faith so that everything will be all right, "Ligaliga said. "Samoa is a democracy, but right now it is not like that."

Ligaliga said there were eight candidates standing in the district so far but Afamasaga had secured the majority of voters already. Lealaisalanoa Kaisa added he was there to support the MP and his stand as a qualified person.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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