Samoa’s incoming prime minister has called for the caretaker Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) government to relinquish power so the country can rebuild.
The country is in a constitutional crisis after the FAST party, which won a one-seat majority in the April 9 election, was blocked from entering Parliament to form a government on Monday.
The Head of State had cancelled a scheduled sitting on Saturday, but that was overruled by the Supreme Court on Sunday.
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FAST’s members arrived on Monday to find Parliament locked, with the clerk and speaker saying they were acting on orders from the caretaker Minister for Parliament, HRPP leader Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
Under the constitution, Parliament must sit within 45 days of an election, and Monday was the last possible day for that provision to be met.
FAST instead held its own swearing-in ceremony in a tent outside parliament, where its leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was sworn in as Prime Minister, but the Head of State, the judiciary and parliamentary officials were all absent.
The Attorney-General – an HRPP appointee – has said the ceremony was unconstitutional, and that FAST was not the government. A Supreme Court challenge will be heard on tomorrow.
Fiame, in an address to the nation today, said FAST was forced into an action to get past “the enormous assault on the dignity of this country and its people” by the HRPP. While not mentioning him by name, she called on Tuila’epa to stand aside.
— Rod Emmerson (@rodemmerson) May 25, 2021
“The rule of law … was the foundation for Monday’s swearing in ceremony as all of us were acting in accordance with the constitution, the declarations of the Supreme Court, and simply what is right,” she said.
“The lawbreaking caretaker and his weak and complicit officials have undermined the dignity of this land and all of its people,” she said.
“That shame and that stain will be upon their hands forever.”
This Monday’s events outside of Parliament have imprinted the hearts of Samoans near and far, in the country and outside it. https://t.co/bbYrcn8lSH
— Samoa Observer (@samoaobserver) May 26, 2021
Fiame called for Tuila’epa to stand down so her government could rebuild the country from the crisis.
“When the arrogant refusal to concede power, a power which is given by the people, becomes a grubby international incident, then our caretaker has dragged us all to his lowest ebb, and he and all his sycophants must go.”
Fiame said she was prepared to wait through more taxing times, and asked supporters to keep their faith as they pursued an end to the crisis.
“Help is on the way, the way of the rule of law.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.