Court Ruling on Tuilaepa and Lealailepule Suspension

Three-judge bench of Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, CJ Satiu Simativa Perese II, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.

The 33-page decision by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese, Senior Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren is published here in full (see below).

Here’s 10 observations from SGN:

1.  Former Prime Minister Hon Tuileapa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi and former Associate Minister of MCIT, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi made some damaging remarks towards the Judiciary during the post-general election political crisis, however, they have apologised to the Court and unreservedly withdrawn those statements. The Court appreciates and accepts their respective apologies.

2.  As of this moment, Wednesday 01st September 2022, Tuilaepa and Lealailepule are no longer suspended from Parliament.

3. The Court declared the decision to suspend the two MPs void because they were not given the right to be heard before the penalty was handed down by Parliament. The decision in itself to suspend the MPs, has not been found illegal or unconstitutional. The issue is with the process that led to the decision to suspend. Not the decision to suspend in itself.

4. By not giving them a chance to be heard, Parliament infringed on Tuilaepa and Lealailepule’s constitutional rights to natural justice under Article 9(1).

5. The Court urges Parliament to uphold its Constitutional duty to allow those accused, the right to be heard as to penalty. Aua le toe faia.

6.  The role of a strong and well functioning opposition is an important part of Samoa’s democracy.

7. The Court and the Judiciary are the protectors of the Constitution. It is the duty of the Court to scrutinise Parliamentary proceedings for any alleged breaches of constitutional requirements and to hear and grant relief on any motion where a law, decision or process has gone against the Constitution.

8. The indefinite nature of the suspensions – until such timesei iai se aso – is similar to penalties customarily set by village leaders where the penalty continues until such time as proper apologies are tendered and there is reconciliation between parties.

9. Opposition Leader Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi and Opposition Secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi are free to attend the next session of Parliament.

10. However, at the next session of Parliament, as long as the two MPs are given the right to be heard, Parliament can thereafter take any action as to penalty, including, another suspension. However, if, as the Court observes in 8 above – Hon Tuilaepa and Lealailepule on that first day back in Parliament, ask for forgiveness as matai do in Village Councils – tapena ma ni lua size 2 se 49, then perhaps – “sei iai se aso” can come sooner rather than later.

Let’s continue to pray for Samoa.