Speaker Appeals Supreme Court Decision to Overturn Parliament’s Two-Year Suspension of MPs

"After careful consideration, I have decided to appeal the parts of the judgment that concern the period of suspension and the Standing Orders."

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Thursday 6 July 2023 Mulinuu, Apia Samoa. The Speaker of Samoa’s Legislative Assembly will appeal the Supreme Court decision that overturned the two-year suspensions of opposition MPs Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi.

The decision was handed down by Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke on Tuesday 4th July 2023.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Legislative Assembly’s suspension of opposition leader Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and HRPP Secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi for two years breached Article 44(1) of the Constitution and the framework of Samoa’s Constitution for responsible and representative government.

Excerpt of the Court Decision 

In a letter received by the media on Thursday afternoon, the Hon Papalii Lio Oloipola Taeu Masipau said he welcomed the Court’s confirmation that – despite the arguments made by the two MPs – Parliament is entitled to act firmly in the face of Contempt and hand down suspensions of MPs.

However, the Speaker who was the First Respondent in the case, says that after careful consideration, he has decided to appeal the parts of the judgment that concern the period of suspension and the Standing Orders.

“The Speaker understands, and respects, that the Supreme Court was faced, here, with those exceptional circumstances and with questions of law that the Court have not previously considered.”

“The Speaker considers, however that the other parts of the Court’s decision – and, in particular, the rejection of the decision made by the committee and the Parliament, without guidance as to how they should have responded to the members reprehensible actions or could act in any future case – raise important questions under the Constitution.”

The Speakers Statement in Verbatim 

On Tuesday 4th July 2023 the Supreme Court gave its judgment on the challenges made by two members of Parliament to the findings that they were guilty of contempt of Parliament, the power of suspension exercised by the Parliament.The penalty of two years suspension without pay imposed on those two Members; and to Standing Orders that govern suspended members.

The Court has held the penalty of two years suspension for the two Members of Parliament who were found guilty of Comtempt of Parliament was unconstitutional and, for that reason, void. The Court accepted, against the Challenges made by the two Members that:

– They had committed comtempt and could not challenge that.

The court repeated that the two Members actions following the 2021 general election were ” reprehensible “.

– The Parliament has the power to suspend members who are guilty of contempt.

– Parliament is entitled to suspend Members who have committed Contempt without pay.

But the Court has held that the two year suspension would deprive the constituent of Lepa and Faleata No 3 of a voice for too long a period, though it has not said what period could or should be imposed or how any such period is to be determined. It has also partly upheld the standing Order restrictions upon suspended members, but found others to be unconstitutional.

The Speaker who was the defendant to the case as Parliament’s representative before the Supreme Court, has after careful consideration decided to appeal the parts of the judgment that concern the period of suspension and the Standing Orders.

Our Judicial system provides another avenue where parts of a judgement can be reconsidered such as the following:

– The elected member of the Parliament and its privilege and Ethics Committee guided by the 2022 decision of the Supreme Court, undertook a robust and fair assessment of the penalty to be imposed upon the two Members, including hearing what the two Members had to say against the penalty.

– The period of suspension was settled by the committee and the Parliament in light of the reprehensible actions of the two Members. Other Parliament have suspended for Similar and even longer periods.

– The challenged Standing Orders, similarly, were the results of careful consideration by the elected Members.

The Speaker understands, and respects, that the Supreme Court was faced, here, with those exceptional circumstances and with questions of law that the Court have not previously considered. The Speaker welcomes the Court’s confirmation that – despite the arguments made by the two Members- the Parliament is entitled to act firmly in the face of Contempt. The Speaker considers, however that the other parts of the Court’s decision – and, in particular, the rejection of the decision made by the committee and the Parliament, without guidance as to how they should have responded to the members reprehensible actions or could act in any future case – raise important questions under the Constitution.

Signed by Susuga Hon Papalii Lio Oloipola Taeu Masipau,

Speaker of the Legislative Assembly