Resigned MPs Oppose HRPP’s Application to Join as a Party to their Court Proceedings

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Translated from #FaaSamoa. Three former Human Rights Protection Party members who resigned to become Independent MPs have strongly opposed an application by HRPP to be an intervenor in the court case to determine the validity of their seats in Parliament.

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This was made known by the Ms Muriel Lui as legal counsel representing Tuuu Anasii Leota, Ale Vena Ale and Mauu Siaosi Puepuemai when the matter was called before the Supreme Court on Monday morning.

Counselor Muriel Lui standing for all three MPs told the Court her clients object to the application put forth by Fuimaono Sefo Ainuu on behalf of HRPP to be a part of Court proceedings.

L: Fuimaono Sefo Ainuu. R: Muriel Lui.

The matter before the Supreme Court stems from a declaratory order filed by the Speaker of the House to determine the status of the three MPs who wish to remain as Independent Members of Parliament. The Speaker is represented by Counselor Matafeo George Latu.

HRPPs application before the Courts is signed by suspended MPs Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi as party leader and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi as party secretary.

Background

In November 2022, Veteran MP from Siumu, Hon Tuuu Anasii Leota and Faleata 4 MP, Ale Vena Ale announced their resignations from HRPP. A few weeks later, first time MP and businessman Mauu Siaosi Puepuemai of the Vaa-o-Fonoti district also announced his exit from HRPP.

MPs who decide to cross the floor must go back to the polls in a by-election according to Samoa’s Electoral Act, however, the option of leaving a political party to become an Independent MP was permitted before rushed amendments to the Electoral Act were made prior to the April 2021 general election, seemingly in response to Fiame’s exit from HRPP as Deputy Leader.

When the three MPs announced their exit to become Independents, the matter was referred by the Speaker of the House to the Supreme Court for a decision under s47 of the Constitution.

Section 47. Decisions on questions as to membership: “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.

On Monday, Justice Leaiataualesa Daryl Clarke adjourned the matter to April 20th to hear submissions on whether HRPP would participate in court proceedings.

By choosing to leave the political party whose flag they ran under during the April 2021 general election, the three MPs breach Section 140 of the Electoral Act that requires MPs to remain with the same political party “for the Parliamentary term”.

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S 140 of Samoa’s Electoral Act

Constitution of Samoa

Samoa’s Constitution also includes clauses relating to MPs who cross the floor, and leave the political party they had pledged allegiance to during an election. It is however silent as to an MP who withdraws from a political party to become an Independent.

The Debate

Tuuu, Ale and Mauu say their rights have been infringed by the amendments to the Electoral Act which up until recently, did allow for an MP to defect from his party and become an Independent MP.

Speaking in Parliament both Tuuu Anasii Leota and Ale Vena Ale maintained the strong position that there was no need to return to a by-election because the Law as it stands, infringes on their human right to leave a party they no longer trust or believe in.

Tuuu’s Resignation Letter

In his lengthy resignation letter, Tuuu Anasii Leota alleged poor governance and bad leadership had struck the HRPP at its core.

“I can no longer support HRPP under this type of leadership and environment.”

“Bullying tactics, personal attacks, character assassination and disrespectful language have become a poem for you. The public is tired of this,” Tuuu wrote.

“They need to hear a new tone, new lyrics that embrace a positive change and hope for the future through empowerment of the people.”

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“It is with regret that I submit this resignation letter as a Member of the HRPP after years of loyal support and commitment to the party, and more than 20 years as a Member of Parliament for the District of Siumu.”

“The people of Samoa who voted us in no longer have confidence in the Party and its Members,” said Tuu’u.

“The Party no longer stands for the protection of the rights of the people of Samoa, but only a few privileged and selected ones.”

“The post-2021 General elections loss and the long drawn out refusal of the Party under your leadership to concede defeat was embarrassing and a poor example for the Party and supporters and most especially the people of Samoa.”

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“Party leadership has become increasingly an authoritarian one-man Party which only listens to one or two and fails to be consultive and democratic in seeking views and listening to its members. This approach has created a controlling environment where independent views are suppressed, where only followers rather than leaders are developed.”

According to Tuuu, he had “challenged these issues a number of times at Caucus meetings and discussions.”

All three MPs have said they consulted their respective constituencies over their resignations from HRPP, and claim to have received their full support.