Human Rights Protection Party to appeal bombshell ruling: Samoa caretaker PM

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Samoa’s caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) pulled a few surprises out of his hat when he 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.

The Supreme Court delivered two historic rulings related to the elections on Monday, both in favour of FAST.

The first, a unanimous court decision, broke the election deadlock that has polarised the country since 09 April, the day the 2021 General Election took place.

The Supreme Court ruled the 20 April appointment of an additional Member of Parliament unconstitutional. The ruling gives FAST the majority of seats in Parliament, which include two Independents – Fiame and Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio.

But Tuilaepa announced Monday evening that 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.

In the second court decision, the Supreme Court overruled a declaration by the Head of State voiding the April elections saying he has no legal authority.

The court has reinstated the results from April’s election and ordered Parliament to convene within 45 days from last month’s 9 April elections.

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.

Supreme Court Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai handed down the decision together with Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa.

Justice Vaai ordered that the warrant of election issued by the Head of State His Royal Highness Tumalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II to appoint Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau be declared void.

The verdict from the panel of Justices follows a legal challenge mounted by FAST against the Electoral Commissioner for activating a provision in the constitution to increase the number of women MPs, which resulted in a 26-all deadlock between the parties.

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

SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS