24 May 2021, Mulinuu Apia Samoa. The Leader of FAST this morning told the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly that Parliament should obey court orders set down by the Supreme Court on Sunday.
The Order made by the Supreme Court delivered by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese together with Justices Tafaoimalo Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren and Vui Clarence Nelson following an in Chamber special sitting on Sunday morning, upheld a Proclamation dated 20th May by the Head of State calling a meeting of the Legislative Assembly for Monday 24 May 2021 which is the last day of a 45-day period set down by the Constitution for Parliament to convene following a general election.
When the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei arrived at the Malae o Ti’afau, Mulinuu, the 26 elected members of Faatuatua i Le Atua ua Tasi were all seated under a large marquee infront of Parliament House. Church ministers and invited guests including family and constituents of the 26 FAST MPs were also seated, many seen wearing special clip-on ID tags they had received with their formal invitations to the opening of Parliament, received last Friday.
Tiatia stood flanked by Deputy Police Commissioners in a face-off situation with FAST leader Fiame Naomi Mataafa standing across the floor of the marquee, surrounded by FAST members in their red blazers. Tiatia conveyed that he was bound by the orders of his superior, the Speaker of the House Toleafoa Faafisi. The Legislative Assembly had chosen to follow the latest writ issued last Saturday night by the Head of State, to suspend his own Proclamation for Parliament to convene.
Tiatia apologised to the Fiame and the hundreds gathered under the marquee. He said despite Supreme Orders clearing the way for Parliament to convene, “but we are following the Declaration signed by the Head of State to suspend Parliament until further notice”.
“I again apologise for inconvenience this has caused..” he continued.
After his explanation Tiatia then offered an envelope for the Chairman of the Council of Churches who was in attendance.
Fiame acknowledged the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for coming to face the gathering and respond to questions as to why the Fale Fono of Samoa was locked up. Raising her voice, the Sao Faapito told the Tiatia that it was their role as officers of government to obey the rule of law, and the Supreme Court of Samoa had specifically ruled on Parliament to convene.
“That is my reminder to you, the Clerk; you should stand for what the Law says.. We are all here sadly witnessing the outcome of today.. but that is our reminder to you Tiatia, you ought to walk by the Law, and decisions of the Supreme Court.”
In speaking to the crowd of more than 500 people present, Fiame reflected on the freedom fought by forefathers, saying that very freedom had been questioned by the events of the morning.
“E iai le upu e fai i le matou itumalo, e maniti tino i pisaga. O ai pisaga? o nai o tatou tua’a ua lagomau mai ti’asa, o lea ua latou tu’u fesili po’o le a lenei mea ua tula’i mai i lenei taeao,” Fiame says in Samoan.
She said the Rule of Law has not been followed by the Legislative Assembly which saddens the FAST Party.
Fiame ended discussions with Tiatia by returning the envelope the Legislative Assembly had prepared for the Church Minister present. The crowd cheered and applauded the decision by Fiame, as Tiatia and around 20 Legislative staff members then took their leave, and returned to their nearby office building on Parliament grounds.
Former Attorney General Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu told the media that keys to Parliament House had been taken from the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly by Toleafoa Apulu Fa’afisi.
FAST Party returned to Parliament grounds later in the afternoon, and conducted a ceremony where their majority 26 elected members were sworn in, and Fiame Naomi Mataafa as Prime Minister, with her named 12 Cabinet Ministers.
The Office of the Attorney General has since issued a press release claiming the swearing in to be illegal, threatening civil and criminal charges against those who participated.
Fiame has told the media FAST would be seeking the Court for contempt of court orders against govt.