Samoa's Supreme Court issues schedule for election petitions
Apia, SAMOA — The proposed schedule with respect to electoral matters, to 4 June 2021:
Wednesday 26 May 2021: A panel of three Justices will hear and determine three different applications concerning electoral petitions – these are – (1) applications to amend electoral petitions which have already been filed: (2) applications to strike out counter-petitions: (3) an application from the Office of the Electoral commissioner that petitions against him be struck out.
1. Thursday 27 May 2021– the first call of a Motion in M. 139/21: AG v M Latu and others for declarations that the purported opening of Parliament and purported swearing-in ceremony are unconstitutional and unlawful. The purpose of this call is to set a timetable for preparatory work for the hearing of this matter. Also being called is an application by the AG for interim declarations in M. 140/21 AG v M Latu and others. A panel of three will hear this matter.
2. Monday 31 May 2021 – hearing of the appeals in CA 04/21 and CA 05/21 Electoral Commissioner and anor v Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi and another. The Justices scheduled to hear this matter are the Chief Justice, Justices Tuala-Warren and Roma.
3. Wednesday 2 June 2021 or Thursday 3 June 2021; the Court of Appeal will deliver a decision on the appeal.
4. Friday 4 June 2021, a tentative date for the hearing of the substantive matter in AG v M Latu.
5. Week commencing 7 June 2021 – three Courts operating to hear electoral petitions.
Their Honours note that the Electoral Petition work has had to be adjourned to commence in the week of 7 June 2021. The Electoral Act 2019 requires that the hearing of electoral petitions should be given priority over the Court’s other work. This is the second time the hearing of the petitions has had to be adjourned to give the Supreme Court the chance to resolve urgent constitutional issues which go to the fabric of the maintenance of Samoa’s rule of law.
Given the events of the last three days, the Court considers that its limited judicial resources should be used to hear the Appeal concerning women representation under Art 44 of the Constitution. This will provide for a definitive answer to this important constitutional issue.
The Supreme Court in M. 120/21 and 121/21: FAST and another v AG and another, has already given an opinion, which has not been appealed by any party, that in the event of a tied Legislative Assembly, the Head of State, after convening the Legislative Assembly under Article 52, is entitled to call for a new election if after a reasonable period it becomes clear that no one person will likely command the confidence of the members under Article 63(2).
If, on the other hand the Appeal is dismissed, then the Legislative Assembly will have one party with a majority of 1.
The hearing and determination of the appeal should not be read as endorsing a view one way or the other with respect to the matters raised in the AG v M Latu and another; the issues raised in that case are for another hearing and determination.
There may be further urgent applications that have yet to reach the Court, and the Court gives its commitment to ensuring that important constitutional issues are given hearing time as soon as is reasonably possible.