Sāmoa’s defeated Tuila’epa launches attack on NZ’s Jacinda Ardern

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Defeated former Samoan prime minister Tuila'epa Sailele ... criticises NZ PM Ardern's “blind obsession” to support the first woman head of government for Samoa. Image: The Pacific Newsroom

By Michael Field of The Pacific Newsroom

Sāmoa’s defeated prime minister Tuila’epa Sailele has fired a verbal blast at Aotearoa New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, saying she had been blinded by an obsession to ensure a female prime minister led the Pacific nation.

He also attacked Aotearoa Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and the governing New Zealand Labour Party, saying they had interferred in the political affairs of independent Sāmoa.

In a lengthy and strange statement Tuila’epa also suggested The Pacific Newsroom had been part of what he terms a “bloodless coup” by Prime Minister Faimē Naomi Mata’afa and her Faʻatuatua i le Atua Sāmoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party.

The Human Rights Protection Party-issued statement said Tuila’epa was deeply disappointed over the New Zealand government role.

“This blind obsession with the advent of a woman PM for the first time in Samoa’s political history has blinded Prime Minister Ardern’s judgment in the exercise of caution when it comes to Samoan politics, which is always fraught with a deep and complex culture — that much more lies beneath the surface,” the statement said.

“In brief, the change of government on 23 July 2021 completed a bloodless coup, with the judiciary taking the lead.”

Tuila’epa described as “mind boggling” how Mahuta carried out “numerous verbal negative attacks” on him in the media. Her comments amounted to interfering with the government’s policies and he had taken that up with New Zealand High Commissioner Trevor Matheson.

‘Unprecedented haste’
Tuila’epa said he also discussed the New Zealand government’s “unprecedented haste to congratulate the FAST government leadership despite the alarms we had raised”.

He claimed there had been an “unprecedented and immediate grant of aid funding in excess of NZ$14 million, (publicly broadcast by government) almost immediately after the appointment of the FAST government by our Court of Appeal — albeit the first grant of its kind since the last 40 years of HRPP’s government.”

It was unbelievable and reflected New Zealand’s “bad judgment”.

Tuila’epa found evidence of conspiracy in The Pacific Newsroom’s July 13 interview with FAST lawyer Taulapapa Brenda Heather.

He called her “the de facto FAST Head of State”. In that interview, the September 20 summoning of Parliament was mentioned, and Tuila’epa saw this as significant: “Was this also an indirect notice through to Wellington?”

He said members of Parliament had yet to receive notices on the date.

The new government this month appointed five New Zealand judges to hear cases, and Tuila’epa said this was unavoidable but raised the question of who was to pay.

‘Unhealthy developments’
“With all these unhealthy developments, we believe the Labour government was fully aware of the nature of Samoa’s political impasse through the constant flow of reports from the NZ High Commission office in Apia,” Tuila’epa said.

“Given the years of experience of the complexity of Samoan politics, through our association of over 107 years and a Treaty of Friendship, what can NZ do to help a former Trust Territory rather than openly supporting a government that is so tainted by numerous irregularities?”

Tuila’epa said he was issuing a call to the United Nations, the Commonwealth and all friendly governments “for any legal remedies to sort out the legal mess we are in, before this country of peace loving Samoan citizens degenerates to anarchy”.

Michael Field is an author and co-publisher of The Pacific Newsroom. He is also a specialist on Sāmoa. This article is republished with permission. Asia Pacific Report collaborates with The Pacific Newsroom.

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