F.A.S.T. rise up against P.M. over Judge criticisms
The Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T) party has risen to defend Judges of the Criminal Courts, especially against Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi attack on an unnamed Judge, whom he said should be investigated by the Judicial Service Commission.
“The F.A.S.T. party takes a fervent stance in defence of the country’s Judiciary following comments by the Prime Minister in the media this week that the Party considers inappropriate as they are designed to influence and compromise the Judiciary’s independence," the party said in a statement issued on Saturday.
The statement followed comments by the Prime Minister, questioning the outcome of a recent electoral challenge. Tuilaepa referred to an unnamed Judge whose performance the PM said needs to be referred to the Judicial Service Commission (J.S.C) for review.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister criticised certain Judge whom he claimed made “verbal rulings” and is yet to issue “written decisions” to explain them.
“That is one major issue from the [election petition] cases that was recently dealt with in [the Supreme Court] over the nomination of election candidates,” Tuilaepa said. “This does not relate to Judges that have rendered decisions and also prepared written rulings but there is one specific Judge who hasn’t done that."
Tuilaepa claimed the Judge had stated the written decision (including legal reasoning) would be delivered at a later date.
He claimed that the judgement was made but the Justice had to “look for [a legal] basis for the decision”.
However the leader of F.A.S.T., La’auli Leuatea Schmidt, said the comments were undue interference in judicial affairs from a leader of Samoa.
"They are a direct attack on the independence of the Judiciary," La'auli said. “This is why the separation of powers is so important to ensure the three branches of our democracy are independent from each other.
“Judiciary independence is crucial because it makes government accountable for their actions.
“If people are wronged by the Government, they have no other avenue to address their wrongdoing but they seek the Court to address the wrongs done to them.
“If the Judiciary’s independence is not guaranteed, the Court will become fearful of making the right decisions and the people are the ones who suffer."
The Prime Minister said honesty should be paramount in Judges' dealings and criticised the fact that, to date, a written decision is yet to be issued to the respective parties involved.
“I also hope the Judicial Services Commission will look into the conduct of this specific Judge and this specific Judge should be dealt with,” he said.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister said this specific case “did not have any witnesses called during the hearing.”
He added that in any case that went before the Court, witnesses should be called as they will give evidence that will assist with the decision of the Judge.
“This means this Judge made his own decision on this issue and I question his integrity and the honesty of his conduct in this matter; hence the J.S.C. needs to look into the Judge.
“And this is one of the reasons why there is a clause in the Constitution that gives the authority to Parliament to remove any Judge from the Court over the questionable conduct. Parliament can also remove Judges and it’s called the impeachment process.”
He added the only time this clause was invoked was the matter in relation to the President of the Lands and Titles Court (L.T.C.), Fepuela’i Atilla Ropati, who has a criminal conviction.
La'auli in jis Saturday statement also expressed his grave concern that the Executive will directly influence the Judiciary’s independence through the appointment of future Judges if three bills proposing to overhaul the court system pass into law in the coming week.
“We are considering the legal options as I feel the latest criticism by the Prime Minister of the Judiciary, borders on contempt of court and the public perception and high regard of the Judiciary is somewhat influenced as it is none other than the Prime Minister who is making these inappropriate criticisms,” La'auli concluded.