Samoa Court quashes appointment of Leota

Toomata Norah Leota (far right) with FAST party members.
Toomata Norah Leota (far right) with FAST party members.

Samoa’s Court of Appeal has found the appointment of Toomata Norah Leota as the 7th woman MP to be illegal and her subsequent swearing in as a member of the Legislative Assembly as invalid.

“We declare that no additional member should have been sworn in, and the swearing in of To’omata Norah Leota was invalid,” reads the Court of Appeal ruling.

The Supreme Court decision that declared Anoamaa 2 election candidate Toomata Norah Leota as an additional MP under Article 441E of Samoa’s Constitution has been overturned by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal, presided over by Justice Rys Harrison, Justice Raynor Asher, Justice Sir William Youn and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren, declared that Toomata Norah Leota is therefore not a member of the Legislative Assembly.

The appeal was filed by Alataua West MP, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau, whose lawyers argued that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction or power to declare a 7th woman MP, and further argued that Article 441E of Samoa’s Constitution was misinterpreted by the Supreme Court.

Article 44 of Samoa’s Constitution sets a floor for women parliamentarians, to not be less than 10 percent. With the current number of Constituency seats being 51, that minimum was declared by an earlier decision of the Court of Appeal to be six.

Toomata Norah Leota had put forward a cross appeal, arguing that the interpretation of the Article 441E had been correctly interpreted, and her appointment as the 7th woman MP satisifed the quota.

However, the Court of Appeal dismissed yesterday the Cross-Appeal.

The Court of Appeal has quashed paragraphs 59(b) and 59(d) of the initial Supreme Court decision that declared Toomata Norah as an additional woman MP.

According to the Constitution Article 441E – if a seat held by a woman becomes vacant, and a man is elected to fill that vacant seat, then the woman candidate (if any) with the highest number of votes from that election or the last election or general election shall become an additional member.

The Court of Appeal has declared that these clauses and special measures only apply if the 10 percent minimum of has not been satisfied. With six women MPs, the minimum requirement has been satisfied. The Court of Appeal heard cases all of last week.  Aliimalemanu vs Toomata Norah is the first of the Court of Appeal decisions to be handed down this week.

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