Tuilaepa Files Defamation Complaint Against Fiame

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Samoa’s Caretaker Prime Minister Hon Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has lodged a formal complaint of defamation with police, against the leader of the FAST political party and Prime Minister Elect Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa for remarks that were streamed live on social media during a press conference held last Wednesday 14th July 2021 from party headquarters at Tuanaimato. 

Fiame had issued a press statement to officially respond to an HRPP letter of complaint addressed to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) claiming the Chief Justice was ‘incompetent’ and alleged the Judiciary were trying to control the outcome of the April 9th general elections through Court decisions favoring FAST.

In her press statement Fiame responded to public claims made by Tuilaepa during his weekly media program, where he told the nation that she and FAST members had been in contact with the Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary.

The remarks by Fiame at the centre of Tuilaepa’s defamation claims are:

“Over the past three almost four months we have seen the unconscionable and dirty tactics played out by a Man who refuses to accept defeat and now in the last desperate attempt to retain power, we have their attack on the Rule of Law, I can say unequivocably that contrary to HRPP’s lies and mistruths,  neither I nor La’auli nor any member of FAST has met with the Chief Justice or any other Supreme Court Judge,  in secret or in private.

Let me further correct that lie and say this…unlike Tuilaepa who has personally visited the Court Complex at Mulinu’u attempting to speak to at least three sitting Supreme Court Judges (before the 17 May cases were decided), accompanied by others, and who has also sent his former MP’s to attempt to visit Judges in their private homes, to speak with them prior to Court hearings, we have not sought to undermine the Independence of the Judiciary in such a inappropriate manner.

Fiame goes on to say, “This type of behaviour is outrageous and strikes at the heart of what is good, what is right and the conventions which are at the heart of our democracy;

“No such meetings ever took place. This type of misinformation is absolutely consistent with the recent slurs on the reputation of La’auli, which we now find was a complete lie motivated by malice and assisted by the failure by journalists to independently check their facts…and seek and honour the truth”.

Samoa Global News had sought a comment from the Prime Minister through the Press Secretariat on Wednesday afternoon regarding his alleged visit to Mulinuu, and also in response to TV3 reporter Toalepai Rula Vaai’s public apology and claims that Hon Tuilaepa had specifically asked her to put forth the question about Laauli’s remarks, even though she herself had not heard them.

In a press statement circulated to all media on Saturday just before the Manu Samoa kick-off against Tonga at 5pm, the Caretaker Prime Minister vehemently denies the allegations that he visited the Courthouse complex at Mulinu’u in an attempt to speak to sitting Supreme Court Judges before certain electoral related decisions were delivered.

Tuilaepa has also hit back at Fiame’s comments that he had sent former HRPP MPs to visit Court Judges at their private homes in an attempt to speak with and influence the Judges.

In response the Caretaker Prime Minister questions the FAST party leader’s integrity and says this should not be happening from someone who was a member of his Cabinet for many years.

“It’s extremely disgraceful for someone who worked under me for so long to have stooped so low and issued these unsubstantiated and completely untrue statements. Never in my many years as Prime Minister of Samoa, have I been accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

“And it’s crystal clear that the sole motive behind Fiame Naomi’s false statements is to undermine the integrity of the Office of the Prime Minister of Samoa. In doing so she has also undermined the dignity of and respect for the people of Samoa who voted overwhelming in support of the HRPP leadership in the 2016 General Elections as well as close to 60% of the voters versus the 38% who voted for FAST in 2021.”

“Nonetheless, I am looking forward to see Hon. Fiame reveal her sources and justify her allegations by physically identifying in Court the Supreme Court judges impacted in her claims.

“It is no secret that Fiame and the F.A.S.T Leaders have been on a public crusade to brainwash everyone with their numerous defamatory claims against Government and myself before and after the General Elections.

“And it is time to set the record straight in Court.

“I have requested the Police to investigate these serious allegations made against me and to proceed with the appropriate charges.

Samoa has been in a spiralling political crisis since the nation went to the polls going on four months now, and the people have been patiently awaiting the confirmation of an Executive arm of its Government since they voted in their constituency representatives on the 9th of April 2021.

In his statement Tuilaepa again refers to Laauli’s remarks on an EFKS television program that he says, “provoked over 10,000 women of Samoa to stage their protest march on the 12th July 2021″.  Regarding the number of women who marched, the Samoa media reported it as, over one thousand. 

States Honorable Tuilaepa: “The other two matters of great public interest which have caused even worse damages to the integrity of the FAST Party and brought shame to their leadership is the widely media coverage of the verbal abuses against the women of Samoa by the Chairman Hon. Laauli MP which provoked over 10,000 women of Samoa to stage their protest march on the 12th July 2021.

“Secondly, the recent Supreme Court decision which ruled that the Swearing in ceremony under the tent by FAST on the 24th of May was unconstitutional and unlawful and therefore voided and of no effect. 

“These incidents undermine Samoa’s reputation as a Country which upholds the Rule of Law and observe the highest standards of moral behaviour raising more questions on their suitability to hold public office,” concluded the Prime Minister.

A one day hearing of the latest court case in Samoa’s political crisis was held on Friday where the Court of Appeal heard from four well prepared submissions – The Office of the Attorney General, the FAST party, as well as the HRPP and Samoa Law Society both of whom were joined as intervenors.

The issue at hand being that the Parliament of Samoa has not convened since the April 9th general election, to properly form a government since the people of Samoa went to the polls.

The latest police complaint by one leader against the other continues to deepen a national political crisis between HRPP and FAST, which the people of Samoa have had no choice but to sit and watch as spectators in front row seats for the past 14 weeks since April 9th.