EDITORIAL: By the Samoa Observer Editorial Board
It has become obvious in recent weeks that the strategy of Samoa’s oldest political party is to “repeat a lie long enough that it becomes the truth”.
And these untruths have been disbursed through multiple platforms: television, radio and social media as well as through protest marches and vehicle convoys.
It explains why the former prime minister and Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) leader, Tuila’epa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and his party deputy, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, have been on air lately, as part of a party-led crusade to disparage the judiciary, following the Appellate Court’s decision last month to install the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) government.
Last week the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (MJCA) felt compelled to set the record straight — in the face of a slew of misinformation by the HRPP leadership recently — on the 23 July 2021 judgment of the Appellate Court and where the court views the position of the Head of State in relation to the Constitution.
Perhaps, the former prime minister needs to be reminded again of the position that the Head of State occupies under the Constitution, as laid out by the Appellate Court’s ruling:
“It may not be a well-known fact that the Head of State, except as otherwise provided in the Constitution, has no option but to comply with the advice of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister; such advice is deemed to be accepted by the Head of State after a period of 7 days.
“Respectfully, the Head of States authority is to do what he is told to do by Cabinet or the Prime Minister as his responsible Minister.
“He is like everyone else, a servant of the Constitution, not its Master.”
— (Paragraph 60 of the court’s decision notes.)
So aren’t we blessed that our forefathers foresaw what could come many years later — when a sitting prime minister could have illegally used a Head of State to usurp the powers of the Constitution — and therefore drafted in the provisions to ensure the Head of State remains subservient to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister (not a caretaker cabinet or caretaker prime minister) at all times?
One thing we know for sure is Tuila’epa and Fonotoe have been cherry-picking the courts’ judgments to suit their party’s political agenda, which is why the MJCA felt the need to release a statement last week to point out the role of the courts as the guardians of the Constitution.
So what is the endgame for these two notable politicians, one a former prime minister and the other a former deputy prime minister, as they persist in churning out flawed interpretations of the court’s judgement?
We ask this question because both have reached the highest echelons of political power in Samoa, one as a prime minister and the other deputy prime minister, and basked in the glory that came with their terms in office including the triumphs of successive HRPP governments over the years.
Speaking on TV1 Samoa’s Good Morning Samoa programme on Wednesday, Fonotoe claimed “Samoa is slipping into a failed state” and then unleashed a barrage of untruths on how the judiciary is “causing the erosion of the Constitution” and “effectively putting itself above Parliament” on the televised show.
And this is from a politician who has practised as a lawyer and made submissions as a barrister before the same court, which he and party boss continue to disrespect to this very day with their Machiavellian commentary, following their party’s loss at the April general election.
But then how can Samoa be a failed state when the international community immediately stepped forward with congratulatory messages for the FAST government and Samoa’s first female Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa after the Appellate Court handed down its 23 July 2021 ruling?
The international community showed total confidence in the ability of our judiciary to rule without fear or favour to resolve the three-month-long constitutional crisis, and this was demonstrated by their acceptance of the court’s judgement.
Therefore, the call by Tuilaepa for the international community to assist “restore Samoa’s democracy to where it should be” appears to be at best tongue-in-cheek, consigned to the annals of Samoan political history.
How can he be taken seriously as a leader on the international stage when history now shows how him and his party members tried to manipulate the Constitution to prolong their illegal tenure in office?
Nonetheless the highest court in the land has spoken, let’s respect the wisdom of its judgement and enable the new government to get on with the job of governing, and delivering on its promises to the people of this nation.
If you haven’t noticed storm clouds have been gathering recently and the people want their government to be ready to tackle these challenges, so if you have nothing positive to contribute, then it is in the public’s interest that you step aside and let those who’ve been given the mandate to lead take charge.
This Samoa Observer editorial was published on 13 August 2021. It is republished with permission.