Ousted Samoan PM accuses Supreme Court judges of election favouritism

Ousted Samoan PM accuses Supreme Court judges of election favouritism

Wellington: Samoa’s ousted prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has accused the country’s Supreme Court of aligning itself with the opposition, the FAST party, in an angry tirade delivered amid a political and constitutional deadlock.

As he was talking, the elected FAST party and its leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa held a lunch and prayer meeting, unable to get into the parliament for a second day to start the business of governing.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was Samoa’s prime minister for 22 years before the election defeat.Credit:AP

She said her party would forge its own way out of the constitutional crisis.

“We are trying to see our way through this, utilising Samoan institutions and laws, although they have been knocked around a bit,” Fiame said on Tuesday afternoon.

Analysts have described the extraordinary deadlock as unprecedented for Samoa, which has been independent and democratic for 60 years.

Fiame was sworn in as Samoa’s first woman prime minister – and her party as the new government – in a makeshift tent on the grounds of the Fono – the country’s Legislative Assembly or parliament – on Monday evening, with a former attorney-general presiding and a former head of state in attendance.

Samoa’s Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa takes her oath at an unofficial ceremony outside parliament in Apia on Monday.Credit:AP

The nation’s Supreme Court had earlier ordered the parliament to convene after last month’s election which Fiame won. The constitution requires MPs to meet within 45 days of an election, with Monday marking the final day by that count.

The order came after the island nation’s head of state, Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, suspended parliament “for reasons that I will make known in due course”. His role is largely ceremonial but it is within his powers to dissolve parliament.

On Tuesday, Tuilaepa who has ruled for 22 years insisted his side could “go in, take oath to do the honest thing, but we know that the Supreme Court decision was dishonest,” according to a translation by Samoan journalist Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson.

“That is what we believe. That means we are not honouring the 60 per cent of people who voted for [his party] HRPP,” Tuilaepa said.

Samoa’s Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.Credit:Samoa Observer/AP

“It is very obvious that the Supreme Court is aligning itself with FAST based on their actions yesterday by walking to parliament,” he claimed, according to the translation, in reference to judges attempt to enter the house for Fiame’s swearing-in.

He claimed the chief judge was related to Fiame and other judges were friends of hers or had personal reasons to decide in her favour.

“I am the leader of this country […] the future of Samoa is dependent on the incoming government. This government will seek the truth, this is an easy issue to resolve.”

He called on the FAST party to be charged, accusing it of treason. “We will not back down based on questionable decisions of the Supreme Court.”

Watching it all unfold was the Secretary-General of the United Nations – his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Antonio Guterres urged leaders “to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa”.

It was still not clear exactly how or when the newly sworn in MPs would take their place in the Fono.

“I think it’s going to be a long year in so far as trying to resolve the constitutional and political stalemate that is happening in Samoa at the moment,” a FAST spokesman told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

“I think since events yesterday we expect something to come from the courts and the judiciary,” he said.

The party was careful to be seen as following due process and the letter of the law.

Tamasailau Suaalii-Sauni, a Samoan academic at the University of Auckland, said: “Now the members of FAST, having gone through the process and declared the 17th parliament open, will have to get on with trying to run the government.”

Fiame said “there will be a time, when we will meet again, inside that house. Let us leave it to the law.”

Even experts were astonished by the whiplash-inducing events of the past few days.

“These events are more than unprecedented. They’re a sign that the systems are being deliberately tested as part of a power struggle,” said Seuta’afili Patrick Thomsen, a lecturer in Pacific Studies also at the University of Auckland.

“The major concern I have for Samoa right now is for the integrity of our government and judicial processes,” he said. “I and most Samoans I know are willing to accept either parties as our government, should they be routed there through the proper channels.”

Stuff, Reuters

Most Viewed in World

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article