Samoa: Elected leader locked out of parliament

Samoa’s prime minister-elect, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was locked out of parliament on May 24 after her opponent, Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi claimed he remained in charge. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) urges Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi’s to respect the democratic processes and independent judiciary of Samoa.

Fiame Naomi Mata'afa is sworn in outside Samoa's parliament. Credit: Malietau Malietoa/AFP

Mata’afafrom the FAST Party was refused entry to parliament in Samoa after the Supreme Court declared on May 22, the FAST Party held a 26-25 majority and Mata’afa’sswearing in should go ahead. Mata’afa was instead sworn in outside parliament on May 24 which was suspended the day before by the nation’s head of state, Tuimalealiifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II.

At a press conference held by Malielegaoi on May 24, he said, “there is only one government in Samoa, even if we are just the custodian government. We remain in this role and operate business as usual.”

Samoa’s constitution requires lawmakers to meet 45 days after an election and as a result of legal challenges, Mata’afa was locked out on the final day. Mata’afa is the first woman prime minister to be elected to Samoa’s parliament, ending the 22 year-long tenure of Teuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

The IFJ said: “Any attempt to undermine democratic or judicial processes sets a dangerous precedent for current and future governments in Samoa to disregard the rule of law, and to erode the rights of workers and journalists. The IFJ urges Malielegaoi’s to respect Samoa’s democratic values and independent judiciary.”

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