Outside political 'referees' unecessary: high chief

A Samoan high chief in Australia says international bodies such as the U.N. should not be used to resolve the nation's political stalemate as their cultural unfamiliarity makes them poor political "referees".

Researcher Lefaoali'i Don Enari, a Ph.D. candidate at Bond University, Gold Coast Australia, made the comments on Saturday in response to questions from the Samoa Observer. (Lefaoali'i's matai title is from Lepa.)

He told the Observer: “There is no such thing as an external party”.

Lefaoali'i argued that the U.N. would only act in its best interest.

Only Samoans know what is best for Samoans, Lefaoali’i argued.

“I believe Samoa should not involve the United Nations as there is no such thing as a neutral external party. The U.N would only act in its best interest. Our ancestors did not fight for our independence for us to get external forces to referee our politics,” he said.

“Samoa should refuse for using both external powers [the U.N. and Commonwealth]…the outside world does not know the intricacies and power of our fa'a samoa (Samoan culture), therefore they are not qualified enough to know the best way forward for Samoa. Only Samoans know what is best for Samoans.”

The 193-member United Nations has issued two statements about Samoa’s political impasse.

The Commonwealth also made a statement through its Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, Q.C.

In the latest statement from the United Nations, High Commissioner for Human Rights, Maria Hurtado, called on Samoa to respect the independence of its judiciary and the nation’s democratic institutions.

The call from Ms. Hurtado, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland, was published in a press statement from the U.N.’s Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner on 28 May, 2021.

She notes the U.N.’s concerns caused by the challenges to the rule of law in Samoa following the 9 April elections.

Ms. Hurtado’s comments come after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Samoa’s leaders to find solutions to overcome the current political crisis in the best interest of the people.

“We are concerned by challenges to the rule of law in Samoa following the 9 April elections,” said Ms. Hurtado.

“The Secretary-General called last Monday on the country’s leaders to find solutions to overcome the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of Samoa’s people and institutions.”

The High Commissioner urged Samoa to respect the rule of law and its democratic institutions, in particular, the role of an independent judiciary.

Samoan judges must be able to do their jobs without pressure, interference, or personal attacks, she added.

“[We urge that] the rule of law and democratic institutions in Samoa be respected and protected, and in particular the key role played by an independent judiciary,” Ms. Hurtado said.

“We emphasise that Samoan judges must be able to undertake their functions without pressure, interference or personal attacks from any quarter.”

Samoa is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 2008 and reminds that it is a “fundamental right to take action through the courts.”

Decisions from the Supreme Court should be respected, the high commissioner added.

“It is a fundamental right to take action through the courts, including to challenge election results, in accordance with the applicable legal framework,” Ms. Hurtado said.

“At the same time, decisions of the Supreme Court should be respected, in a manner consistent with international human rights norms. Samoa is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since 2008 and has thus committed itself to safeguard access to justice and the independence of the judiciary.”

Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations comprised of 54 countries, Ms. Scotland, has offered Samoa the Commonwealth’s support.

She has spoken to caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and Prime Minister-elect Naomi Fiame Mataafa.

In a 27 May tweet, Ms. Scotland said “both leaders” have agreed to accept the upcoming ruling from the Court of Appeal.

The Commonwealth “stands ready” to help Samoa, she said.

“I’ve been following developments in Samoa since the election, and was able to speak with both leaders and to hear that the upcoming ruling from the Court of Appeal will be accepted by all,” Ms. Scotland said.

“The Commonwealth stands ready to provide support to Samoa and all members as required.”

U.N. Secretary-General Guterres who heads the 193-member organisation, urged “the leaders in Samoa to find solutions to the current political situation through dialogue in the best interest of the people and institutions of Samoa.”

"The United Nations stands ready to provide support to Samoa if requested by the parties," said Mr. Guterres.

It is not clear what type of “help” or “support” the Commonwealth and U.N. are offering Samoa. 


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