Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa has directed the Attorney General to take swift action against opposition party members making “unprecedented public and media attacks” on the Samoa Judiciary.
In a letter dated 4th August 2021, the Prime Minister directs Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale to respond by 4pm of the same day, with an action plan of intended steps to be taken “within 48 hours of receipt of this letter”.
The Prime Minister directs actions be taken towards those attacking the judiciary in public, including the opposition party leader and members of HRPP.
Letter, Prime Minister to Attorney General:
4 August 2021
As you will already be aware, Samoa has witnessed a significant number of unprecedented public and media attacks by the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy, current members of his Caucus, opposition legal advisors and consultants in the form of a former head of the bench, a senior lawyer and others, which have been made against the judiciary of Samoa and upon individual judges. These have become particularly intense in the eleven days since the decision of the Court of Appeal in Attorney General v Matafeo Latu & ors and have, for example, included:
- Repeated statements by the Leader of the Opposition that, for instance,
“It is very obvious that (the judiciary) have made unjust decisions, especially the “Latu” decision in which they have ruthlessly trampled on the Constitution of Samoa..
What must (the judiciary) do? They need to resign.”
“E piopio le faaiuga, e pioio le faamasinoga, e piopio foi faamasino”.
- A rally convened by the Human Rights Protection Party convened “because the Chief Justice has destroyed the Constitution of Samoa” and quoting the Leader of the Opposition as saying:
“If we are going to seek justice, then the Chief Justice and all the Supreme Court justices should resign.”
- The convening of large rallies and processions of vehicles near and around the Supreme Court building, causing the courts to close temporarily, with the caucus spokesman on loud hailer screaming:
“..se’i vaai la i le mea la’a o’o i le Faamasinoga Sili…,”
and other threatening words.
As you would no doubt be aware, it is the fundamental duty of any Attorney General to uphold and defend the independence of the judiciary, and hold safe its’ members against any attack of this kind, or any kind. Despite the exceptional seriousness of these attacks and the clear risk to public order, I am not aware of any step that you have taken to date in accordance with the duty.
I am therefore writing to ask you to advise:
- What steps you have already taken, including but not limited to:
- Warnings or cautions, either to those involved or as general public statements;
- Advice to the Police Commissioner as to how he may lawfully protect the courts and the judiciary and, further, uphold public order; and/or
- Filing and/or preparation of proceedings for contempt of court; in discharge of that duty, and
- What steps you will now take within 48 hours of receipt of this letter.
I am directing you to provide a written response to my queries by 4.00pm today. I have also sent a copy of this letter to His Honour the Chief Justice, as head of the judiciary in Samoa, and would also ask that you provide a copy of your response to His Honour by the same time.
Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa
PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Asked if they have been directed to take action, Police Commissioner Su’a Fuiavailiili Egon Keil said, no.
“We have not received any information from the OAG on possible litigation against those who made disparaging remarks against the judiciary”, said Su’a.