Samoa Chief Justice will hear appeal

A Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) member has failed in a bid this morning to have the Samoa Chief Justice, Satiu Simativa Perese, recused from an appeal on whether she should be granted a seat in Parliament.

The application to dismiss Justice Satiu was advanced and rejected by Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau – a prospective MP whose passage to Parliament depends on the case – on Monday morning. She had also asked for an overseas Justice to sit on the panel of the Appellant Court hearing the case. 

The dismissal comes after the Attorney General was last week forced to withdraw entirely a motion to replace the judges sitting on the case entirely, just days after its submission.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren handed down the decision dismissing the applications. 

She noted a familial connection to the Chief Justice and one of the parties in the case, Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mataafa, was insufficient grounds for an application that he be recused from the case on the ground of real or perceived bias.

The Justice noted that the supposed familial connection, which has been publicly discussed, dates back some four generations. 

Justice Tuala-Warren said the application advanced did not meet the high threshold required for a judge to stand down from a case. 

She concluded the application was an attempt to undermine the integrity of the Chief Justice and is therefore dismissed. 

Because the recusal application of the Chief Justice was dismissed there was, therefore, no need for a panel to convene and consider the further request for an overseas judge to sit on the appeal, she added. 

The appeal hearing has commenced chaired by Chief Justice Satiu, Justice Tuala-Warren and Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma. 

At issue in the case is whether Aliimalemanu should be admitted to Parliament on the grounds that an insufficient number of women were elected to meet a constitutionally mandated quota requiring that 10 per cent of MPs elected be women. 

Five women were elected in the 09 April election for a 51-seat legislature.  

Aliimalemanu and the Electoral Commissioner are appealing a Supreme Court decision that voided her appointment to sit in Parliament.

If successful her appointment would drastically alter the balance of power in Parliament, expanding its size and bringing it to a 26-all deadlock and depriving Mata’afa and the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party of a one-seat majority: 26-25. 

The Appellant Court had earlier ruled against a stay of execution on the enactment of the Supreme Court’s ruling that would have, if successful, allowed Aliimalemanu to sit in the first sitting of the Legislative Assembly until the substance of the case was decided.

A final decision on the matter is expected by this week’s end.

Meanwhile more than 300 women dressed in white participated in a peaceful march this morning at Mulinuu to show their support for the addition of a sixth woman to Samoa Parliament. 

The crowd marched to show its support for an additional sixth woman, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau, arguing that a constitutional provision requiring at least 10 per cent of MPs be women had not been met.

The prospective MP was seen taking part in the march with other Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) women candidates. Land and Titles Authority CEO Taatialeoitiiti Agnes Tutuvanu-Schwalger featured prominently. 

The march led to the road being blocked off by Police officers early this morning. By 8.30am crowd numbers had swelled after more than 1000 supporters of the HRPP gathered at Mulinuu.

The peaceful march also included men dressed in blue. Some of the crowd consisted of women, children and youths from various villages around Upolu but it also included some of the public servants. 

Samoa caretaker Prime Minister, former Speaker, AG and Clerk sued for contempt of Court

The Faatuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party has lodged a contempt application in Court against the Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and former Parliament Speaker Toleafoa Faafisi, Talamua Online report.

Also included in the contempt application are the Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale and the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Lima Gramme Tualaulelei.

The FAST leader and Prime Minister elect, Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa confirmed the application to charge the four accused for failing to uphold the decisions of the Supreme Court.

“We now await when the Court can hear the application,” she said in a weekend press conference.

Mata’afa said Tuilaepa has said a lot in public to ridicule and belittle the integrity of the judiciary and decisions of the court other than upholding those decisions.

“This should not happen especially from those who have held respectful and influential positions in Government,” said Mata’afa.

Cook Islands Opposition leader supports Fiame

Cook Islands Opposition leader Tina Pupuke Browne has extended congratulations and support to Samoa’s prime minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, encouraging the first woman to ever hold the post to continue “standing firm and unwavering” reports the Cook Islands Times.

Browne said PM Mata’afa’s resolve and determination to lead Samoa out of the current constitutional crisis deserves respect and support from neighbouring Pacific island governments and leaders.

“I have deep admiration and respect for Fiame, she’s going up against a former very long-serving PM and certain top officials who still support Tuilaepa (Malielegaoi), all of whom will not accept his defeat at the polls. He’s trying everything to stay in power and is being aided and abetted by officials who have plunged this beautiful country into a crisis that will long be remembered. This is what Tuilaepa will be remembered for – the complete chaos that he wrecked on Samoa’s governance.”

The Opposition leader added that what has been forgotten by those trying to cling on to power is that there must always be a separation of powers and the rule of law must also always prevail.

“The people of Samoa voted for change, they wanted a new government, new leadership and that is exactly what Fiame brings. I have no doubts at all she will run the country with integrity, transparency and empathy and I wish her the very best for her first term of office,” she said.