By Lagi Keresoma in Apia
The new elections in Samoa called by the Head of State for this Friday, May 21, cannot proceed as they were not called under any legal authority and is accordingly voided, the Supreme Court has ruled.
So concluded the 28-page court ruling delivered by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese this afternoon.
The other presiding judges were Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren.
“We respectfully tender our view and judgment that the Head of State does not have the power to call for a fresh elections as he did on 4 May 2021 for 21 May 2021,” said the Chief Justice.
The decision also highlighted that:
- There is no lawful basis for the Head of State calling for a new election on 21 May 2021;
- The writ issued under section 52 of the Electoral Act 2016, dated is not issued under any legal authority and is accordingly voided;
- The declaration made above means the result of the April 2021 general election and the relevant writs associated to the results continues to be valid and lawful;
- The Head of States attention is directed to the requirements of Article 52 and the Head of States obligations under the Constitution to call a meeting of the Legislative Assembly within 45 days of the holding of the general election.
The Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi – FAST Party challenged the Head of State’s proclamation as unconstitutional and unlawful and the case was heard by the court last Friday.
Acted for best outcome for Samoa
The Chief Justice said that the Head of State provided his reasons for the proclamation and acted on what he believed was the best outcome for Samoa.
“There is no basis for any suggestions that the Head of State acted with malevolence,” the Chief Judge said.
Based on the issues raised from this legal challenge, the Chief Justice said that the court was mindful that the office of the Head of State should have access to public funding and resources and independent legal advice.
“In the 21st century, the burden of the office has greatly increased, and much of the work is concerned with implementing the government of the day’s advice, and in that regard it is appropriate for the Head of State to receive advice from the Attorney-General as mentioned in Article 44(2),” said Chief Justice Satiu.
As for costs, 20,000 talā (NZ$11,000) was awarded to the applicants to be paid within 30 days of delivering the decision.
Outside court, the FAST Party Deputy leader, Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao said the decision had opened up everything and he acknowledged the country’s support and prayers as well as the lawyers.
The FAST leading counsel, former Attorney-General, Taulapapa Brenda Heather Latū, said the decision meant no election as proclaimed by the Head of State.
In front of the court front steps, hundreds of FAST supporters in bright red were waving Samoan flags and singing hymns once the decision was relayed to them.
La’auli and the lawyers met with the supporters and thanked them for their support and invited them all to the FAST Party camp for the evening prayer service.
It was the FAST party’s second victory in court in one day. Later in the evening, caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said on the state owned radio that the decisions would be appealed.
Tuilaepa also did not acknowledge the 26 members FAST claimed to have, saying the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) had 25 members to FAST’s 24 plus two Independents.