Samoa elections: United Nations poised to intervene as battle for leadership continues
Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio before being sworn in as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively. Photo / Aufai Areta Areta from Samoa Observer
The United Nations is calling on Samoa’s leaders to find a solution to what has become a battle for leadership – as a new prime minister is sworn in, while another refuses to give in.
In a statement released this morning, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said Secretary-General António Guterres has been monitoring developments since the April 9 elections.
“He urges the leadership of Samoa to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa.”
(The story continues under the live blog)
The statement goes on to say that the UN “stands ready” to lend its support to the island nation – but only at the request of the two main political parties: Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) and Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).
The news comes as Samoa and Samoans around the world anxiously await to see what the next development will be in the ongoing general election saga.
The country is waking up to a new day and even a new era after its first female leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was sworn in in Parliament in Tiafau, Mulinu’u, Apia last night.
The ceremony took place under a marquee just outside the Maota Fono (Parliament), after Fiame and members of his party were excluded from the building.
Members of Fast have argued they have a right to be there, after Samoa’s Supreme Court ordered parliament to meet last week. However, the country’s head of state, afioga Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, issued a brief of suspension on Saturday evening.
However, the Supreme Court overturned the announcement again – ruling the head of state’s decision to be illegal.
Yesterday in Tiafau, a huge crowd of supporters and members of the public stood nearby to watch the ceremony – as many around the world were also able to watch live streams recorded by local reporters and media via Facebook.
After the ceremony, the man now known as the outgoing leader laughed as he mocked what he described as the stupidity of the FAST party.
“ It’s a betrayal ” – Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said: “This is treason and the highest form of illegal conduct. Nothing they have done is legitimate. The devil has defeated them and has taken over.”
Tuilaepa, who has occupied the prime minister’s seat for almost 23 years, called the event a joke and the world would consider insane.
“Oh my God, where have we ever seen a President take an oath – in a tent?”
After the ceremony, Fiame told local media that the swearing-in of a new Parliament was made in response to the law and, more importantly, what the people of Samoa voted for.
Translated, she said the convocation of Parliament had to take place.
“This is what has to happen – so we looked for a way to do it.”
She recognized the number of seats owned by Fast – 26, compared to 25 at HRPP.
“This number means that a government can be formed and established,” Fiame said.
The attorney general’s office also released a statement last night, saying the ruling was unconstitutional and all those involved are now facing civil and criminal prosecution under the law.
When asked if she would go to the Prime Minister’s office tomorrow, Fiame laughed and said in Samoan: “We will probably all go and get our offices.”
In the meantime, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia has come out in favor of the new leadership; issuing a statement shortly after the swearing-in ceremony, saying it recognized the legitimacy of Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
President David W. Panuelo said: “As Federated States of Micronesia that both uphold and promote democratic values, it is imperative that we show our friends – especially in their darkest hours – that we support them.
“Samoa is a dear friend and neighbor to the Pacific. The past few weeks have been very troubling for the Samoan people – who have witnessed what is arguably a constitutional and political crisis.”
Panuelo called on Micronesians to “be courageous and proactive” and stressed that they respect the rule of law.
“Samoa are our friends. They need to hear that we are supporting them in this crisis. They need to know that they are not facing these challenges alone, but that their friends in the North Pacific are by their side.”