FAST Chairman Does Not Accept Court Decision Declaring 2-Year Ban Unconstitutional

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7 July 2023 Apia Samoa. Translated from FaaSamoa. The Chairman of the ruling Faatuatua i Samoa ua Tasi political party has spoken out against the recent Supreme Court decision that declared the suspensions of two MPs for a period of 24 months was unconstitutional.

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Speaking on his weekly EFKS TV program, FAST Chair and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt said he does not accept a ruling that states those who have been found guilty (faamaonia soligatulafono) are allowed to re-enter Parliament.

Laaulilemalietoa asks rhetorically on the talkshow, “Does the Court think we should allow people found guilt (tagata solitulafono) into Parliament where decisions are made? To sit in the Maota Fono?”

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“O le manatu o le Faamasinoga e aumai tagata solitulafono e faia upu a le Palemene, ma saofafai i totonu o le Maota Fono?”

Laauli says this will be the ridicule of Samoa when people from around the world see such criminals in the Maota Fono.

The Court decision referred to was handed down in March 2022. The two MPs – HRPP Leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Party Secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiaifi were found guilty of Contempt of Court however, under special circumstances that included a Harmony Agreement presented to the Courts, ruling imposes no penalties. 

The two MPs were later handed a 2-year suspension in October 2022 after Parliament voted 29-19 in support of the Privileges and Ethics Committee’s report that found the pair in Contempt of Parliament.

This week the decision by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke, declared the suspensions unconstitutional and therefore void.

The Court decision does say the two MPs actions following the 2021 general election were “reprehensible “. The Court did not dispute that Parliament has the power to suspend members who are guilty of contempt. It also took no issue with Parliament suspending members without pay.

However the Court found the two year suspension to be “in breach of article 44(1) of the Constitution and the framework of Samoa’s Constitution of responsible and representative government.”

Does, this mean that a member can never be suspended? Obviously not, each case turns on its merits. However, suspensions must not deny Parliament of effective representation from electoral constituencies, and or the voice of the people of those electoral constituencies. Such denial is also a denial of the democratic system of representative and responsible government established in the Constitution.”

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The court also ruled that Tuilaepa and Lealailepule are entitled to be paid their remuneration and allowances that were withheld on account of the terms of the suspensions, and for the MPs to file for costs.

The FAST Chair has hit back saying he does not accept such a decision and he does not wish to sit in a Parliament with anyone found guilty in a Court of Law.

“The Supreme Court is where the Chief Justice presides and all the judges of Samoa who uphold the Law and confirm those who are guilty, and yet, they are saying to allow back those who have broken the law.”

“O le Faamasinoga, e afio ai le Faamasino Sili ma le mamalu o le Faamasinoga ma i latou e faamaoniaina soligatulafono, ao lea ua faimai le faaiuga e toe aumai i totonu tagata solitulafono.”

The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Hon Papalii Lio Oloipola Taeu Masipau,  last night announced that after careful consideration, he has decided to appeal the parts of the judgment that concern the period of suspension and the Standing Orders.

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