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APIA, Samoa (March 20, 2001 - Samoa Observer/PINA Nius Online)---In a day of political maneuvering, United Independent leader Asiata Dr. Saleimoa Vaai handed the Opposition leadership to the Samoa National Development Party’s new leader, Le Mamea Ropati.

Asiata said since the Samoa National Development Party has the majority, they should also have the honor of leading the Opposition.

"I am happy to say that our party has also agreed to have the newly appointed leader for SNDP, Le Mamea Ropati, as our leader as well," Asiata said.

Asiata also said the United Independents group would soon become an official political party.

The two parties will be working under separate banners in Parliament but, according to both leaders, they will be working very closely with each other.

The United Independents started off with 13 MPs just after the elections, and ended up with seven, plus one from the Samoa United People’s Party. The others joined the victorious Human Rights Protection Party, which lost its absolute majority but returned to government with the support of some independents.

Asiata had earlier succeeded longtime Opposition leader Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi, a former prime minister, as Opposition leader.

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