Supreme Court to Decide Fate of Three HRPP Deserters

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Tuesday 20 December 2022, Parliament of Samoa. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of three members of the Human Rights Protection Party who recently announced they’ve deserted the opposition party with intentions to become Independent MPs for the remainder of their Parliamentary terms.

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Veteran MP from Siumu, Hon Tuuu Anasii Leota and Ale Vena Ale representing Faleata 4 announced their resignations from HRPP last month on the 3rd of November. A few weeks later, first time MP and businessman owner of Georgia’s Pizza Mauu Siaosi Puepuemai of the Vaa-o-Fonoti district also announced his exit from HRPP.

By choosing to leave the political party whose flag they chose to run under during the April 2021 general election, the three MPs breach Section 140 of the Electoral Act 2019 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


 

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The first order of business for Parliament on Tuesday morning was the Speaker putting the question to the three members, to publicly state if they accept or deny they’ve breached the Law.

Tuuu Anasii and Ale Vena Ale quite dramatically and not without theatrics, categorically denied that they had done anything wrong, adding that the Law goes against their human right to leave a party they no longer trusted or believed in.

Tuuu Anasii engaged in a yelling match with HRPPs Deputy Leader, Hon Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo. When Tuuu was given the chance to respond, he attacked and blamed the HRPP Leader Hon Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi for the Electoral Act amendment now affecting them.

The Speaker interjected to remind Tuuu that Parliamentary debates cannot mention or make allegations against an individual who is not present to respond or defend themselves.

Tuuu continued to blame the suspended HRPP leader, stating that it was important for him to explain the reasons for his exit from the party. He accused the former PM of changing the Law “on his own” with arrogance and selfish intentions.

“A fafau loa e se tagata e toatas ona o ni manatu faomalo, fiapule ma le faamaualuga..”

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Fonotoe told Tuuu that the reasons for his decision to leave HRPP were not relevant in Parliament, and reminded the Siumu MP that he had voted for the amendments to the Electoral Act when it was passed.

Tuuu would not have it and yelled back that this was all instigated by the HRPP leader, to ensure that no MP would ever be able to leave the party.

Tuuu yelled that this was all Fonotoe’s fault for “not doing your duty as a leader”. A school yard exchange of words went on between the two before Parliament, despite the Speaker’s efforts to calm them both down.

When Ale delivered his strong objection that he, too, had broken no Laws, he reiterated that it was within his human rights to leave the HRPP party. He again said the reason for his exit was bad leadership by Tuilaepa.

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Muauu was more diplomatic and called for the spirit of forgiveness as Samoa approaches Christmas and the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He spoke eloquently to acknowledge the Legislative Assembly of Samoa and simply stated that he too did not accept the charges against him.

Parliament then passed a motion to refer the decision as to the qualification of the three MPs memberships in Parliament, to the Supreme Court under Article 47 of Samoa’s Constitution.

Article 47 of Samoa Constitution 

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 Electoral Act

The Electoral Act of Samoa is specific and states in a more recent amendment that an MP must sit out their entire term of Parliament as a member of the political party he or she ran under during an election.

The Debate

The three MPs say their rights have been infringed by the amendments to the Electoral Act which up until recently, allowed for an MP to defect from his party and become an Independent MP.

The amendments were passed by the 2/3rds majority HRPP government just before the April 2021 General Elections. No HRPP Member of Parliament spoke against the amendment when it was passed.

The idea around the amended Laws is to protect the rights of the electorate and its voters who had supported a candidate because of his/her allegiance to a certain political party.

The theme of the current law is to say that an MP who changes his or her mind during the Parliamentary term, must go back to their Constituencies through a by-election, and ask through ballot, if they still have the voters’ support given the change of heart.

Whether or not Hon Tuuu, Ale and Muauu lose their seats over their decision to leave HRPP, is now up to the  Supreme Court to decide.