Samoa's parliament ordered to sit within a week — swearing in ruled illegal
Apia, SAMOA — Samoa's Supreme Court has ruled that the FAST party's swearing in at parliament on May 24th was illegal.
But it has also ruled that parliament must sit within 7 days, giving FAST the ability to declare government and be sworn in.
Currently FAST has 26 seats, while the caretaker HRPP government has 24.
However due to the political and constitutional impasse since April's general election, parliament has not yet convened.
The Appellate Court on Friday declared that the issue of a contentious sixth women's electoral seat could not prevent the convening of parliament.
That decision refuted HRPP's claim that the extra seat must be appointed before parliament could sit.
Ahead of today's Supreme Court decision, FAST leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said her party would continue to push to have parliament convened and for the operational budget to be urgently approved by the end of June deadline.
Fiame has written to the Head of State requesting the house sit on Tuesday.
"If it goes against us, all we'll really need to do is to go back into parliament and get sworn in and just continue to formulate the government based on our numbers."
The Samoa Observer reports the caretaker prime minister — and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party — Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi — has scoffed at FAST's call to convene parliament following the Appellate Court decision.
Tuilaepa said at least FAST has had the Appeal Courts decision explained to them and they now understand what it means.
At an evening of singing at HRPP headquarters on Saturday Tuilaepa said the court had clarified what the decision meant.
"And now they're claiming they won and want Parliament to convene. There's no decision like that," the Observer quotes him as saying.
Tuilaepa maintains that parliament cannot convene until all legal challenges are dealt with and until a sixth woman member has been chosen as per Section 44 of the Constitution.
DOUBTS OVER HRPP MEMBERS
Meanwhile, the prime minister-elect is questioning the legitimacy of the HRPP MPs who were not sworn in by deadline.
The constitution requires parliament to convene and members to be sworn in by the 45th day following an election.
None of the HRPP's 25 member caucus have taken the oath for this term.
FAST leader Fiame said if today's Supreme Court hearing ruled in favor of her party's swearing-in, then it brought the status of the HRPP members into doubt.
"There is still a big question on what exactly is the legal status of the HRPP MPs because, you know, they weren't sworn in within the period that is required. So, you know, that's another question that's going to be challenging us."
Also in court this week the caretaker government and officials face accusations of contempt of court for their role in blocking the FAST party from being sworn in.
FAST says the lockout at parliament was in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that parliament should convene.
In Australia, the Morrison government has called on Samoa's two political parties to cooperate and convene parliament, while the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna has told media he's been assured by leaders of both parties that they will respect the court's decisions.