Supreme Court upholds original proclamation in Samoan crisis

Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese
Samoa's Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese at his swearing in, June 2020. Image: Maina Vai/SGN

By Sina Retzlaff in Apia

Samoa’s Parliament will convene tomorrow as originally planned

The Supreme Court has issued orders to uphold the original proclamation, dated 20 May 2021, by the Head of State of Samoa to convene the country’s 17th Parliament following the April 9 general election.

The orders of the court were signed and issued today in an unprecedented urgent Sunday sitting by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese with Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren and Justice Vui Clarence Nelson.

The court orders declare the original Proclamation of the Head of State as lawful while stating that any subsequent or conflicting declarations were not aligned with the Constitution, and also went against recent judgments of the court.

Speaking to the media outside court, former Attorney-General Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu confirmed the court orders had addressed a challenge filed by Latu Lawyers on behalf FAST party, challenging the late night proclamation by the Head of State to suspend the opening of Parliament.

“Those were basically the two orders.”

Asked if the nation could expect another move to “sabotage” Parliament convening in the next 12 hours, Taulapapa said her clients, the FAST party, stood prepared for anything further developments.

FAST party ‘prepared’
“Our clients are prepared to address anything else that might come up, and continue to rely on God’s grace.”

Samoan justices
Samoa’s Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren and Justice Vui Clarence Nelson. Image: SGN

A special sitting of the Supreme Court was held 11am today following an application by FAST lawyers led by former Heather-Latu challenging a late night proclamation by the Head of State issued by email from the Government Press Secretariat at 9.09pm last night.

The second proclamation issued within 48 hours by Samoa’s Head of State HH Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II sent a wave of shock through the nation, as it proclaimed a suspension on his original writ, and postponed Parliament from convening tomorrow morning.

The court also directed that a copy of the orders be given immediately to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.

Meanwhile, in another twist to yesterday’s proclamation, RNZ Pacific reports that the Head of State has departed his official residence in Apia’s Vailele and returned to his village of Matautu-Falelatai on Upolu’s south-west coast.

The move has included a police guard, reportedly for his safety.

Last week, a bus load of matai from the village arrived at his residence in the capital to offer their support after some threats had been made against him on social media.

RNZ Pacific correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, said the Tuimaleali’ifano left Vailele yesterday after making the latest proclamation.

“And moved to his village. He’s now there and operating from his village of Matautu-Falelatai. And now you see police officers are there protecting him.”

The Head of State’s village is nearly two hours from the capital, Apia.

Sina Retzlaff is a Samoa Global News website journalist.

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