Chief Justice happy to return home, to work

The Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, is “happy” to be back in Samoa after returning from medical treatment and stands ready to return to work that could determine the nation's political future.

Satiu’s return home comes after him undergoing a “valve replacement” and “remediation for the other valve” for his heart. 

The Samoa Observer briefly interviewed the Chief Justice after he was seen exiting the Samoa Commercial Bank on Friday afternoon where he expressed delight to be back in the country. 

“I am heading to get a haircut with my brother and on Monday I am ready to go,” he said with a laugh. 

Just months in to his new role, the Chief Justice was hospitalised for “flu like symptoms” at the National Hospital at Moto’otua last September. 

He then left Samoa in early October to seek further treatment on doctor’s advice. 

The Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa was appointed to oversee the bench in his stead. 

His Honour’s return from New Zealand last Friday comes as the nation faces what has been described as a post-election “constitutional crisis”.

Neither the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party nor the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) can form a Government outright. 

That will give the court particular significance and could potentially lead them to determine the makeup of the XVII Parliament. 

Election petitions (or legal challenges to results) are heard by the Supreme Court. If successfully challenged on the grounds of having won by improper means such as by a candidate having engaged in “treating or bribery”, an election result is declared void and a by-election follows. 

(Some six threatened petitions were withdrawn in the 2016 election but in 2011 a total of four were successful and led to by-elections four months after the national elections). 

The Samoa Observer understands the Supreme Court has given itself a provisional deadline of two months to hear and decide on the electoral petitions. 

Parliament must sit by the end of May in order to meet a constitutional requirement that the Legislative Assembly gathers no later than 45 days after national elections.  

Last week F.A.S.T. party leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, said that the opposition party was preparing to defend its candidates against an expected onslaught of petitions. 

Asked about whether she had faith the party would secure a fair hearing in court she said she ultimately wanted to place her faith in the system. 

“I think there is always a concern but we need to have trust in the system that the matters would be given due judgement by the courts,” she said. 

“It’s out of our hands and that is the procedure. That has been the procedure in the past. You lose some, you win some.” 

Meanwhile, the H.R.P.P., which formed a post-election “camp” early last week is understood to be working on an extensive petition strategy itself.

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