“Brave Demonstration of Judicial Independence and the Rule of law” – JANZ

Samoa's Chief Justice walks to the doors of Parliament House in symbolic stance to upload the rule of law.

The New Zealand Judges Association (JANZ) have written to convey their deep respect for the character and resilience of the Samoa Judiciary now caught in the crossfire of Samoa’s political crisis.

Writing to Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese, JANZ President Judge Gerard Winter acknowledged the Samoa Judiciary’s courage to uphold the law.

“Many merely chant phrases like “judicial independence” without ever experiencing what those words truly mean. It takes wise judgement to apply objective rules without fear or favour and provide decisions others may not like. It takes tremendous courage to support those decisions when confronted by unfair criticism”, reads the letter.

JANZ President commends the CJs “wise judgement to apply objective rules without fear or favour and provide decisions others may not like.”

The President JANZ commended the powerful message sent by the Samoa Judiciary when they walked from their Courthouse compound towards Samoa’s Parliament House.

“Your walk to the doors of the Fale Fono alongside your judges and an otherwise simple act of knocking on that closed door of your Parliament, was a profound and brave demonstration of judicial independence and the rule of law”.

“JANZ stands with you. If we may be of assistance, please know, you need only ask”.

“You and all your Judges remain in our thoughts and prayers”.

Today the Samoa Attorney General asked for overseas judges to hear an appeal on the 6th woman Member of Parliament, alleging the Samoa Judiciary had ruled unfairly in favour of FAST party, and saying the Chief Justice may be held in contempt of Parliament.

Samoa Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale

According to the Attorney General, “The actions of the Judiciary on Monday 24 May 2021 led by the Honourable Chief Justice in trying to open the doors of parliament despite the Notice of the caretaker Speaker of the house that Parliament will not convene is concerning. As the Chief Justice, the Caretaker Speaker and staff are not subject to Court jurisdictions as per the law.  The actions of the Chief Justice indicate that he may be in contempt of Parliament. This is despite the absence of the HRPP Party, the absence of the Head of State, and the absence of a council of deputies.” 

Past 7 Weeks of Court Cases

Since the announcement of Samoa’s election results seven weeks ago the Judiciary has dealt with several applications from the FAST party, brought forward on an urgent basis following late night decisions by the caretaker government.

First the issue of the additional parliament seat for women announced April 20th, four days after the official results were published April 16th.

The night before the substantive hearing of that case, the Head of State announced the country should return to the polls for snap elections. Then an AG application to have the FAST challenge discontinued after the Head of State’s announcement for fresh elections, was dismissed by the Courts.

The Court then delivered two decisions on Monday 17th May, one judgement declared the proclamation for fresh elections unlawful and reminded the Head of State of his obligations to convene Parliament within 45 days, and another to declare the additional seat void. The additional seat judgment was appealed and a stay of execution was heard and denied by the Courts last Friday. Upon that decision, the Head of State issued a writ to convene Parliament setting the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly into motion to prepare the programme for XVIIth Parliament of Samoa sending out over 500 invites. Also on Friday afternoon the Attorney General applied to the Court to  determine certain questions. The CJ issued a Minute with strong words to remind the AG the ruling of the Supreme Court represents the law in Samoa.

On Saturday night, the Head of State issues a second proclamation stating his original writ to convene is suspended until further notice for reasons still not yet known. On Sunday morning, a special sitting in Chambers on a pickwick basis resulted in another set of Court Orders being issued, including one to declare the suspension of Parliament, unlawful.

Sina Retzlaff