Samoa election: United Nations poised to step in as battle for leadership continues

The United Nations is calling on Samoa’s leaders to come up with a solution in what has become a battle for leadership – as a new Prime Minister is sworn in, while another refuses to concede.

In a statement released this morning, spokesman for the UN’s Secretary-General, Stephane Dujarric, said Secretary-General António Guterres has been following the development since the April 9 elections.

“He urges the leaders in Samoa to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa.”

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The statement goes on to say that the UN “stands ready” to provide support for the island nation – but only if requested to by the two main political parties: Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) and the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).

The news comes as Samoa and Samoans around the world wait with bated breath to see what the next development will be in the ongoing general election saga.

The country is waking up to a new day and indeed a new era after its first woman leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was sworn in on Parliament grounds in Tiafau, Mulinu’u, Apia yesterday evening.

The ceremony was carried out in a marquee tent just outside the Maota Fono (Parliament House), after Fiame and members of her party were locked out of the building.

Fast members maintained that they had the right to be there, after Samoa’s Supreme Court ordered Parliament to convene last week. However, the country’s Head of State, le afioga Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, issued a writ on Saturday night suspending that.

However, the Supreme Court again overturned that announcement – ruling the Head of State’s move unlawful.

At Tiafau yesterday, a huge crowd of supporters and members of the public stood by to watch the ceremony – as many around the world were also able to watch via Facebook Live streams being recorded by local reporters and media outlets.

After the ceremony, the man now being referred to as the incumbent leader laughed as he mocked what he described as the stupidity of the FAST party.

'This is treason' – Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said: “This is treason and the highest form of illegal conduct. None of what they did is legitimate. The devil has won and taken over them.”

Tuilaepa, who has been in the PM seat for almost 23 years, called the whole event a joke and one that the world would see as foolish.

“Oh my, where have we ever seen a Speaker sworn in – in a tent?”

After the ceremony, Fiame told local media that the swearing in of a new Parliament was done so in response to the law and most importantly, what the people of Samoa had voted for.

Translated, she said the convening of Parliament needed to happen.

“It’s what has to happen – so we looked for a way to do so.”

She acknowledged the number of seats that belonged to Fast – 26, as opposed to HRPP’s 25.

“That figure means a Government can be formed and established,” Fiame said.

The Attorney General’s office also released a statement last night, saying the move was unconstitutional and that all persons involved were now subject to civil and criminal prosecution under the law.

Asked if she would go to the Prime Minister’s office tomorrow, Fiame laughed and said in Samoan: “We’ll probably all go and look for our offices”.

Support from the Pacific

Meanwhile, the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia has come out in support of the new leadership; releasing a statement shortly after the swearing-in ceremony saying it recognises the legitimacy of Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

President David W. Panuelo said: “As the Federated States of Micronesia that both upholds and promotes democratic values, it is imperative that we show our friends – especially during their darkest hours – that we stand with them.

“Samoa is a cherished friend and Pacific neighbour. Recent weeks have been very troubling for the Samoan people – who have been witnessing what is arguably a constitutional and political crisis.”

Panuelo called on Micronesians to “be brave and proactive” and stressed that they stand by the rule of law.

“The people of Samoa are our friends. They need to hear that we support them in this crisis. They must know that they are not facing these challenges alone, but that their friends in the North Pacific stand with them.”

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