More than 180,000 Kiwi Samoans — and some 200,000 Samoans back home — are still on tenterhooks over the lack of a proper Governemnt in Apia.
But the Samoa Law Society has just pointed a way out.
Current Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is Samoa’s longest serving leader and has been head of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) since 1998 , but he has refused to give up power after the general election.
By now Samoa should have seen its first woman prime minister take office. She is Fiame Naomi Mata’afa – leader of newcomer party, Fa’atuatua i Le Atua Samoa ua Tasi.
Court of Appeal’s role
The Court of Appeal, which sat on Friday with a view to determining a case that could finally settle a three-month long national political impasse, has been told by the Samoa Law Society that it has the constitutional power to force Parliament to convene.
A decision on the case has been reserved by the Court until 2 August
The question of whether the courts have the legal right to convene Parliament, or whether that power is exclusively vested in the Head of State, lies at the heart of a question that has left Samoa without a new Government more than 100 days since it held national elections.
Joining the case not as a directly affected party but as an intervenor, the Samoa Law Society (S.L.S.) said the constitution gives the courts the ultimate powers to overrule other parts of the law.
Contradicts claims by the caretaker
This contradicts claims by the existing caretaker Government and its refusal to commit to a Parliamentary sitting: that only the Head of State and not the court may convene Parliament.
( The election winning Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party would have the numbers to form a new Government if Parliament were to convene, ousting the Human Rights Protection Party’s (H.R.P.P.) current caretaker Government).
In their submission in the Appeal Court on Friday, Robert Lithgow Q.C., acting for the S.L.S. said their concern primarily was upholding the rule of law, the bedrock of which is the nation’s constitution.
He said the society supports the courts’ supremacy but does not do so with any regard to the political outcome of its conclusions.
But he said something has stood in the way of the Legislative Assembly convening despite its clear power to force Parliament to sit within a day.
No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’
When that order is made, Mr. Lithgow said there must be no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts.’ Should it wait until a court application is made it is exactly what constitutional law must avoid.
He said the constitution, as the supreme law of the land, could not be “bolted” down by interested parties but it had a broader, higher purpose: protecting the central interests of the Samoan people as expressed by them in their recent election.