Samoa’s Speaker disregards Supreme Court ruling

By RNZ

Police have surrounded Parliament grounds in Samoa after conflicting rulings on when it can reconvene.

The Samoa Observer reports the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party and its supporters have converged on Parliament House, calling on police to uphold the law.

Police continue to surround it and the local area.

Deputy FAST leader Laauli Leautea Schmidt has reportedly confronted the island nation’s Assistant Police Commissioner, asking why the doors to Parliament were closed.

In response, Assistant Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Auapaau said that police were not taking sides.

The Samoa Observer reported he added that perhaps FAST and its supporters should wait for the Legislative Assembly opening ceremony to attend the building.

The tense meeting follows the Speaker’s decision disregarding a Supreme Court ruling, clearing the way for the Legislative Assembly to convene today.

The court last night had declared the Head of State, Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II, acted unlawfully on Saturday in suspending Parliament.

The extraordinary session of the Supreme Court found in favour of newcomer FAST party’s challenge to Tuimaleali’ifano’s edict voiding his previous call for Parliament to convene today.

FAST was expected to declare its majority when Parliament met, and announce Samoa’s first woman prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

However, the Speaker, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa’afisi, announced last night the House would not convene until a new proclamation had been made by the Head of State allowing it.

Leaupepe, a member of the caretaker Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) government, invoked Section 30 of the Legislative Assembly Powers and Privileges Ordinance 1960 to continue as Speaker.

“Further notice will be announced by the Office of the Clerk to officially inform Hon Members of the Legislative Assembly as well as invited guests for the State Opening of the XVII Parliament,” he said.

The conflicting rulings of the Supreme Court and the Head of State set a quandary for the country, as to which has constitutional primacy.

Sunday’s Supreme Court challenge was heard in-chambers in front of Chief Justice Satiu Simative Perese, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.

Meanwhile, a delay to Parliament convening today puts a sitting in breach of the Constitution which finds that the house must sit within 45 days of a general election. Monday, May 24 is the 45th day since the April 9 election.

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