The people of Samoa have spoken and FAST party is in charge
Apia, SAMOA — Samoa’s FAST party took matters into their own hands with a swearing in ceremony in a tent on the lawn outside parliament on Monday, May 24, 2021. According to RNZ reporter Jamie Tahana no members of the Human Rights Protection Party were there.
At around 4:40 Samoa time Fiame Naomi Mataafa arrived and already seated and waiting were FAST party deputy leader Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, Independent Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio who has thrown his hat in the ring with the FAST party and FAST party member and attorney Li'o Papalii Masipau.
Shortly thereafter, the FAST Legal team arrived on site, to a round of applause. This includes Taulapapa Brenda Latu, Matafeo George Latu, Mauga Precious Chang and Muriel Lui. Already present was former Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Masiofo
With Talamua Media live streaming and Samoans around the world watching, Fiame Naomi Mataafa was sworn in on Monday, May 24, 2021 at 6:11 p.m. Samoa time.
Earlier in the day Pacific news media outlets were reporting that the political turmoil in Samoa had increased, with the FAST party that holds a majority locked out of parliament in Apia.
The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualauelei met with the Leader and supporters of Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party, admitting he is "constrained" from further actions as he reports to the Minister in charge of Parliament.
Under the marquee, erected for the swearing-In ceremony that had been set for Monday, Tiatia apologized to invited guests and elected Members of F.A.S.T. for what had transpired and the disruption, the Samoa Observer reported.
Tiatia confirmed that there would not be a Parliamentary sitting Monday, as per notice issued from the Office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
F.A.S.T. leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa reminded the Clerk of a Court order instructing Parliament to convene, thereby adhering to the Constitutional mandate for Parliament to be convened within 45 days from the end of a General Election.
Surrounded by a heavy Police presence, the exchange continued across the marquee with invited guests and F.A.S.T. supporters in close proximity to Fiame and Tiatia.
"We need brave people," Fiame said to Tiatia, urging him to be mindful of his obligation to serve the people of Samoa and not one person.
In response, Tiatia was apologetic saying his actions are limited to instructions from his superiors.
HERE’S HOW IT WENT DOWN
• The FAST party which has a majority of seats was locked out of Parliament Monday morning
• Monday’s sitting was to swear in MPs after the April 9 election
• Under the constitution Parliament must sit within 45 days of an election and Monday is the last day for this to be possible
• Just before midnight on Saturday, Samoa's Head of State, Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aleto'a Sualauvi II, cancelled the sitting without explanation
• In an extraordinary hearing on Sunday, the Supreme Court again overruled the head of state's decision, calling for Parliament to sit today.
• On Sunday night, the speaker of the legislative assembly, Leaupepe Taimaaiono Toleafoa Faafisi, a member of the caretaker HRPP, said he would abide by the Head of State's call, not the Supreme Court ruling
• A Supreme Court decision on May 17 broke a post-election deadlock by handing the new FAST party a 26-25 seat majority over the HRPP — the longstanding governing party headed by Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
RNZ Pacific reported Monday that Samoa's caretaker prime minister refused to adhere to a Supreme Court order for parliament to sit on Monday.
At a news conference, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said only the Head of State — and not the Supreme Court — has the power to convene parliament. He also said there is only one government in Samoa, and his party remains in that role. Tuilaepa also called the FAST party's gathering at parliament shameful.
LANCE APULU, SPOKESMAN FOR FAST
“I see it as democracy being locked down, especially that the people’s representatives who were elected through a general election were locked out of parliament when they were supposed to have been sworn in and take their seats in the people’s house.”
“I think a coup would be accurate,” he said when asked to describe the events of this morning. “Bloodless, but they are actually coups.”
“If you think back over the last several years, our prime minister had been having a spat with Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, as having been a military person and also employing coups, [but] I think there is a relatively close similarity although ours is without the force of the military.”
In response to Tuilaepa’s comments: “The FAST party are abiding the rule of law. Yesterday the latest declaration was given by the Supreme Court ... they are pushing for the government to abide by the rule of law.”
The party’s leaders are currently having a meeting to decide their next steps. The party has called for calm, Apulu said, and asked supporters to leave it to the party.
“It looks as if that despite the declarations and the decisions issued by the Supreme Court, the caretaker government is actually doing things which are contrary to the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, the chief justice and other judges walked to parliament to inspect proceedings Monday morning, tried to open the locked door, and returned to the courthouse.
The clerk of the house said he was merely following instructions from the speaker of parliament, and the caretaker minister of parliament — HRPP leader and caretaker prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
(Sources: RNZ Pacific, Samoa Observer, TVNZ and special thanks to Talamua online for their live stream)