Former N.Z. Immigration Minister weighs in on stalemate

Tuariki Delamere, former New Zealand Minister of Immigration has weighed in to criticise the legitimacy of the caretaker Prime Minister.

Mr. Delamere's nuanced take on Samoa's constitutional crisis has been shared by more than 500 people on Facebook. 

He began with a rundown of the events that followed April's election for a foreign audience. 

"The recent Samoan election resulted in 25 seats to H.R.P.P. (Human Rights Protection Party) 25 seats to F.A.S.T. (Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi) and one seat to an independent," he said.

"The newly-elected independent member, Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio, confirmed he had joined with FAST thus providing FAST with a 26-25 majority of Members of Parliament. 

"The Head of State is required to appoint Fiame Naomi Mataafa [who is the leader of F.A.S.T.] as Prime Minister.

"The constitution does not provide any power or authority for the Head of State to not appoint as Prime Minister the elected Member of Parliament who commands a majority of elected Members.

"However, not so quick.  

"[Caretaker] Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi claimed that his H.R.P.P. was entitled to an additional member.

"The [constitution says women should] consist of a minimum of 10% of the Members of the Legislative Assembly specified under clause (1) which for the avoidance of doubt is presently 5.

"Tuilaepa correctly argues that: As there were only 5 women elected this was only 9.8% of the Members of Parliament, which was less than the required minimum of 10% [...] granting an additional member.

"Tuilaepa also argues that: The additional female Member of Parliament results in a tied 26-26 election result. As the election result was tied 26-26 there had to be a new election as members of Parliament commanded an absolute majority.

"(The question of whether adding [the extra M.P] would remedy the shortfall of women has already unanimously been decided against by the Supreme Court but will this week be decided upon by the Court of Appeal.)"

Mr. Delamere said that while others were supporting the actions by the caretaker P.M. he begged to differ. 

"Tuilaepa was supported in his proclamations by, the Head of State, Tuimalealiifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II,  the Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale, and the former Speaker of Parliament, Leaupepe Toleafoa Fa'afisi.

"With such eminent leaders supporting Tuilaepa’s proclamations, how could he be wrong? 

"The [Head of State ordered the] recent election results were canceled, and a new election would be held because with HRPP and FAST both having 26 Members, neither leader had an absolute majority.

"But was former Prime Minister Tuilaepa right in his proclamations?  Was the Head of State correct and acting in accord with the constitution?

"The answer to that, in my opinion from the side lines, is a clear and emphatic NO.

"The proclamations of Tuilaepa only hold up if there was a requirement under the Samoan constitution for there to be a 6th female member of Parliament.  

"However, a reading of [...] the Constitution makes it abundantly clear to anyone, with even a minimal fluency of the English language, that under the current number of elected members of 51, the Constitution has defined the figure of 10% to be 5 females.

"This need for this specific clarification in the Constitution is obvious as it is rather difficult to have 5.1 female Members of Parliament. 

"And therefore, there was no basis whatsoever for the need to appoint a sixth female Member of Parliament.  And therefore, while the Constitution does not appear to provide the Head of State the authority to order an election, the need to do so was negated anyway because the true election result was 26-25 to F.A.S.T., with there being no need to appoint a 6th female Member."

He then accused the caretaker P.M. of acting against the nation's best interests by standing in the way of new Government.

"Everything is in the hands of the Samoan [...] Court.  But to my mind, as a non-lawyer but as an interested party, having lived in Samoa for several years, and with Samoan grandchildren, it seems to be that the [...] Court should confirm that:

"The 26 F.A.S.T. Members of Parliament have been duly elected and duly sworn in as Member of Parliament; Fiame Naomi Mataafa is the duly appointed Prime Minister; the F.A.S.T. Members who were sworn in as Cabinet Ministers and Speaker are confirmed in their appointed roles [...] the actions of the Head of State were unlawful.

"And so, we await with bated breath for the Supreme Court’s next rulings, a Supreme Court that has, in my opinion, acted with great restraint and with great integrity."

Delamere was a member of the Act Party and appointed to New Zealand's Cabinet in 1996 as part of a coalition deal with the National Party. 

He became an Independent in 1998 after falling out with his former party, retaining his Cabinet position until 1999 when he was removed as Immigration Minister after giving permanent residency to Chinese businessmen in exchange for investment in Māori development schemes. He lost his seat in the 1999 elections. 

Bg pattern light

UPGRADE TO PREMIUM

Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?