Fiame looks forward to leading Samoa, HRPP appeals

Samoa Observer

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa says yesterday was an “incredible day” and says she looks forward to leading Samoa through challenging times, in a statement that all but claimed victory following two decisive Supreme Court victories. 

Mata’afa’s comments came late on Monday after the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party successfully challenged two attempts to interfere with the results of the April 9 election.

The effect of the court’s decisions was to instruct that Parliament be convened and to restore FAST’s original 26-25 seat majority. 

“Today was an extraordinary day for Samoa,” the party leader said in a statement. 

“Today all confusion, all uncertainty and the created ‘deadlock’ was broken by the Court, along with all attempts to undermine the votes of the people.

FAST’s leader confirmed she will invite the Clerk of Parliament to make the arrangements to convene Parliament and swear in the 51 representatives elected on the 09 April election. 

“I and the FAST Party look forward to the opportunity to lead our country through these pressing times,” she said. 

“I expect a meeting of Parliament to be convened immediately, with all the flexibility now given to us to do so under the Emergency Orders.”

Mata’afa also invited public sector executives and staff to continue to undertake their duties impartially as the nation, she said, began to “transition to a new administration and to ensure that process is smooth and efficient.”

Mata’afa said Monday’s court action reflected the party’s total faith in the judicial system and the Chief Justice. 

“We honoured and used the process set out for us all, in the Constitution, to ask the Supreme Court to decide whether what was done was right, whether it was according to the law, and whether it was legal,” she said. 

“We filed these two cases because we felt that what was done, was wrong and was not in accordance with the Constitution and Electoral law.”

Shortly after noon on Monday Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai handed down a decision together with Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa voiding action by the Office of the Electoral Commissioner to expand the size of Parliament. 

The decision restored FAST’s original majority from the 09 April election which gives it control of 26 seats on the floor of the Parliament compared to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) with 25. 

Hours later, the Supreme Court again handed down a decision, overruling a declaration by the Head of State voiding last month’s elections, something it said had no legal authority. 

The court “directed” the “attention” of the Head of State to his constitutional obligation to convene Parliament within 45 days (that expires next Monday) after April’s General Election.

Meanwhile Samoa’s caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) has announced plans to appeal a ruling delivered by the Supreme Court on Monday. 

Tuilaepa made the announcement when he appeared live on the Government of Samoa Facebook page Monday evening. 

Thousands of viewers tuned in to hear him after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the HRPP’s political rivals, the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party led by his former deputy, Fiame Naomi Mataafa. 

Tuilaepa said the party took issue with the court’s reasoning on the validity of adding a sixth woman to Parliament and his intention to appeal it. 

The Prime Minister premised the decision by pointing out that the timing of the Electoral Commissioner’s decision to activate Article 44(1a) seemed to be what the judicial decision came down to. 

He also remarked that one justice said the case set a precedent for the world.

The HRPP filed 19 new election petitions against FAST candidates and their leadership just last week Friday, added the Prime Minister. 

The court matters are complicated, and the road ahead will be challenging, Tuilaepa said.

There are a total of 75 election petitions pending in the courts, he said.

“There are 28 election petitions…that is apart from the 19 new election petitions filed on Friday last week against FAST candidates and their leaders…this is complicated…of all the petitions only four have been heard…there are 75 court cases, election petitions all together,” said Tuilaepa. 

The HRPP requested a sit-down with FAST leadership and their attorneys however, FAST denied the request.

“We tried to talk to them through the usual avenues with our lawyers and their lawyers to find a way to settle these matters outside of the courtroom because we were looking for a way forward but they denied our request. So we will continue with our petitions,” Tuilaepa explained.

He said the court matters must be dealt with in addition to the caretaker government’s responsibilities with COVID-19 and preparing the nation’s budget.

About the election numbers, according to the official count as released by the Office of the Electoral Commissioner and after the court decisions, the HRPP still holds the majority of 25 seats.

“In regard to the official election numbers, the amount of Members of Parliament for the HRPP is 25. FAST has 24 MPs and there are two Independents,” said Tuilaepa. 

It is when Parliament convenes that the Independent MPs (Mata’afa and Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio) can switch parties to join FAST, he noted. Tuala has already pledged his allegiance to FAST.

Samoa has “nothing to worry about” assured the caretaker Prime Minister.

“When Parliament convenes is when we will discover if we have a new government,” said Tuilaepa.

“May God bless Samoa in these times because we face so many challenges. There is nothing to worry about. The Government moves forward.”

He thanked Samoa, American Samoa and the clergy for their support and especially their prayers. 

Parliament must convene by Monday 24 May, in order to meet the 45-day requirement as declared by Samoa’s Constitution.