Samoa Head of State defies Court order, defers Parliament to August

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Samoa Head of State has defied a Supreme Court order for Parliament to convene within seven days, and instead proclaimed that the Legislative Assembly will sit on 02 August, as he says Samoa’s two dominant parties “don’t have a majority” to lead.

In a night announcement at around 10pm on Sunday, Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II said the Court has no jurisdiction to convene the Parliament and he alone has the powers to set the time and place for the House to sit.

“The Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to order the convening of Parliament as I, the Head of State of the Independent State of Samoa, have the powers to appoint the time and place for the meeting of the Legislative Assembly,” he said in his special announcement that was televised on TV1.

Tuimalealiifano said the composition of the Legislative Assembly points to no certainty as to the correct number of Members of the Legislative Assembly to attend the convening of the XVII Parliament.

“The definition of the Legislative Assembly in Article 111 that requires the Legislative Assembly to be constituted in accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution of Samoa of the 51 elected Members and five are women which is less than 10 percent minimum requirement of the Constitution,” he said.

The Head of State said the constitutionally guaranteed seat of the additional woman in accordance with Article 44 (1) A has not been activated, although it has been confirmed that a sixth woman in Parliament is mandatory.

“And that means that the number of Constituted Legislative Assembly at present is 52 not 51 and the convening of the Legislative Assembly without the sixth woman member breaches the Constitution and the Constitutional right of the additional woman member,” he added.

One woman MP has resigned from her electoral seat and two are facing by-elections according to Tuimalealiifano.

“That means all three women could be replaced through by-elections which will bring the number of Legislative Assembly to 52 through the activation of Article 44 (1) A.

“If that is not the case there are various possibilities as to the membership of the Legislative Assembly in order to meet the prescribed 10 percent of women in Parliament.” Tuimalealiifano added there is no clear majority of the Parliament and due to the uncertainty of the outcome of the election petitions and possible by-elections and consequential proceedings will be concluded, there is presently no majority number of seats of Parliament and therefore neither of the political parties can claim the majority.

“It follows that the Speaker and Deputy Speaker cannot be nominated and elected and there is one person that has the confidence of the majority of the house to be appointed as the Prime Minister.

“There is uncertainty as far as the number of the Legislative Assembly is concerned therefore Parliament cannot be properly convened at the present time.”

Tuimalealiifano said the effect of the Court of Appeal’s decision is the frustration of Article 52 which requires the Legislative Assembly to meet no later than 45 days after the holding of a general election.

“Therefore if the above matters is not resolved by the appointed date, I will consider other options available to me,” he said.

“I first state the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction to order the convening of Parliament, as I the Head of State of the Independent State of Samoa have the powers to appoint the time and place for the meeting of the Legislative Assembly.

PROCLAMATION OF THE HEAD OF STATE TO CONVENE PARLIAMENT 2021

“I also add that the court through their decision on the Monday of 28 June, 2021 has show disregard and disrespect of the powers and the position of the Head of State, by ordering that Parliament should convene within seven days of its decision the court has usurped the powers of the Head of State as only I have the legal powers and Constitutional authority under Article 52 of the Constitution to appoint a time and place for the meeting of the Legislative Assembly.

“By ordering that failure to comply with its decision will be contempt of court the [..] Head of State I read it as a direct threat to legal authority, powers and integrity and the office of the Head of State and that of the Parliament of the Independent State of Samoa.

“I pray that such usurping of the decision of the Head of State shall not happen again.”

The Head of State’s announcement puts him on a collision course with the Supreme Court after it ordered last Monday that the Parliament be convened, and failing that could compel it to revisit the grounds on which the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party held an impromptu swearing-in ceremony on the lawns of the Parliament on 24 May 2021 (which the Court last Monday ruled was illegal but could be revisited).

“Failure to convene Parliament in accordance with the above and the 20 May 2021 proclamation of the Head of State in our opinion would constitute a change of circumstances that would justify the Court revisiting the issue of necessity and whether the doctrine now requires to be invoked in the respondents’ favour and declare that the swearing-in of 20 May by the respondents in these circumstances is valid so that the business of a lawful governance of the nation can proceed,” the judgement of the Supreme Court said.

Despite assertions by that the Head of State that both the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and the FAST don’t have a majority to lead, official electoral results show that the FAST currently has a simple majority with 26 Members-elect.

The electoral petitions currently underway in the Supreme Court has seen the numbers of the HRPP drop further from 25 to 23, after a Member-elect agreed with the petitioner to return to a by-election, while another had his April election declared null and void after he was found guilty of bribery and treating.

SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS