Political crisis shows Law School need: V-C

Samoa’s current political crisis has highlighted a need for a Faculty of Law at the National University of Samoa (N.U.S) to contribute informed comments on the debate on interpretations of constitutional law.

The N.U.S Vice-Chancellor and President, Aiono Professor Alec Ekeroma stated in a response to Samoa Observer email queries that during the political crisis they have maintained neutrality as expected of public servants.

“The current political crisis started with a debate on interpretations of constitutional law which made me wish we had a Faculty of Law with legal experts to contribute informed comment on the debate," Aiono said.

Academic law experts from elsewhere filled that void.

“However, the current political impasse has moved beyond the debate on interpretations of a badly drafted piece of legislation.

“It has moved to areas that are outside the law or is beyond the law which then requires intense dialogue using Samoan culture with a keen knowledge of the historical, political, and cultural landscape.

“The caretaker Prime Minister has made reference to Samoan cultural methods at resolving disputes such as soalaupule and ava fatafata.”

Aiono says they have academic leaders at the university with a passion steeped in history, political science and Samoan culture who are willing to make research-based commentary. Aiono noted that  some have been interviewed by the Samoa Observer.

“At a professorial meeting last Monday however, we have decided to continue observing the fast-changing events but making sure that any affected staff and students are identified for support and care. Not speaking out does not mean we do not care about what is happening in the country,” he said.

“As the National University, we care and we desire to contribute or facilitate a solution.”

He stated that they have the telecommunications tools to host debate and improve public discourse just as they did when hosting a recent seminar at the Centre of Samoan Studies on ‘Women in Politics” supported by the United Nations.

“We have maintained neutrality as expected of public servants,” he said.

“But we would like to remind our leaders of both parties that we have staff and students who are hurting. Exams are coming up next week and the longer this impasse continues, the more staff and students are affected emotionally and psychologically.”

Asked if the University is currently recording the historical events that occurred on Monday he explained that the events are recorded by different sections of the University using different methods.

He added that they are endeavoring to catalogue these properly using the limited library resources at their disposal. 

“The political and cultural experts such as Prof Malama Meleisea has his own private collection,” he said.

“A research project in partnership with the Australian National University was conducted a month before the election but we were not able to conduct a post-election survey as we had done previously due to a lack of funds.

“There is now ample material to write a few commentaries and degree dissertations into the future. Our multimedia department archives all material from our camera/television collection.”

Aiono was asked if there are any N.U.S academics that have or will write and research about Samoa’s political crisis he said: “Yes there will be historical and political commentary from our academics and some of them will be published in the mainstream media and some in academic journals.”

“We are careful though not to inflame the current situation and will prefer a research-based and measured approach."

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