Translated from FaaSamoa. Thursday 8 June 2023 Apia Samoa. Supreme Court hearing to decide the fate of three Members of Parliament who resigned from the opposition Human Rights Protection Party to become Independent MPs, is underway in the Supreme Court of Samoa today.
Veteran MP from Siumu, Hon Tuuu Anasii Leota and Ale Vena Ale representing Faleata 4 announced their resignations from HRPP on the 3rd of November 2022. A few weeks later, first time MP and businessman owner of Georgia’s Pizza, Mauu Siaosi Puepuemai of the Vaa-o-Fonoti district also announced his exit from HRPP.
All three declared their intentions to become Independent MPs for the remainder of their Parliamentary terms. In the past,
Samoa’s Electoral Act has long forbidden the crossing of the floor in Parliament. Should an MP cross the floor, a by-election is automatically triggered – requiring the return to the Constituency for their views via a by-election.
However, the Electoral Act had always allowed for an MP to resign from their political party to become an Independent rep – until a law change in early 2021. The timing of the law change by HRPP seemed triggered by the resignations of Hon Leatinuu Wayne Sooialo and Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa from HRPP in 2020.
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Hon Papalii Lio Taeu Masipau, referred the resignations of Tu’uu, Ale and Mau’u to the Supreme Court.
Under s47 of Samoa’s Constitution: “All questions that may arise as to the right of any person to be or to remain a Member of Parliament shall be referred to and determined by the Supreme Court.
The three MPs are represented by Murial Lui, and will be heard in the Supreme Court this afternoon before Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.
The Human Rights Protection Party, represented by Fuimaono Sefo Ainuu, have been granted rights as intervenors during Court proceedings.
What is an intervenor? Unlike a ‘party’, intervenors are people who may be affected by the outcome of a case and are therefore granted permission to join ongoing proceedings. These individuals are granted permission by the courts, so are allowed to attend even if the parties do not agree.
The three MPs had objected to HRPP joining proceedings, however, Ainuu had argued the Human Rights Protection Party had a right to respond to the allegations laid against them through the resignation statements of the defected MPs.
When Tu’uu and Ale resigned in late 2022, the MPs gave the main reason for leaving the Human Rights Protection Party, as “the party leadership” and said “the party has moved away from its objective of protecting human rights.”
“HRPP is going down,” said Ale Vena Ale at the time. “Tuilaepa is the damaging factor in the HRPP party and there is no future in the HRPP with Tuilaepa at the helm,” he had added.
Tuuu Anasii Leota, who has been a member of HRPP since he first entered Parliament in 1996 had said the leadership of HRPP was the key reason for his decision to abondon the party.
“We see that in overseas elections, when a political party loses a general election, there is a change of leadership.. however, there is no intention of the current leader to step down,” said Tuuu Anasii.
“Tuilaepa doesn’t have any intention to allow any of us to become a leader of the party,” Ale had said.
“Tuilaepa does not take any advice.” “E le fautuaina..”
Ale had also said the HRPP had been “too confident” prior to the April 2021 general elections, and made key strategic errors such as running too many candidates in one constituency.
The Court proceedings will begin today Thursday 8 June 2023 at 12pm.