Court denies petition delay request

The Supreme Court has rejected an eleventh-hour request to further delay a petition against the winner of the Faasaleleaga No.2 seat until the political party leaders negotiations are done.

The request was made by Gatoloaifa'ana Amataga Gidlow before the Supreme Court on Monday when her petition against Magele Sekati Fiaui was called for hearing. 

Her lawyer, Leiataualesa Jerry Brunt said the application to adjourn the hearing is to allow the leaders to negotiate in “good faith”. 

He said part of the issues being deliberated by the leaders of Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) and the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) is withdrawing all electoral petitions. 

“We are making this application [to adjourn] not just for the interest of my client but also so the respondent can benefit should there be an agreement,” said Leiataualesa. 

“The greater concern is should the parties' negotiation be successful, then the petitions that would have already been before the Court would not be included in the negotiations…” 

But the request was objected by Magele through his lawyer Alex Sua. 

Mr. Sua told the Court that the negotiations between the parties has lapsed and should not have any bearing on the petition. 

He said the Court is directed by the Electoral Act to deal with the petitions speedily and the call to further delay the hearing is unacceptable. 

The Court proceedings, said Sua, should not be controlled from outside by what is happening between the parties and their negotiations. 

The respondent believes that because Gatoloai brought the matter to Court, it is her responsibility to pursue it and for the public interest. 

In response, Leiataualesa insisted his client wants to explore what the parties are negotiating.  

Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren ruled against the application to adjourn the matter again. 

In their conclusion, Chief Justice Perese said the reason for petitions is that there are allegations of unlawful election and the Court should not overlook that. 

He said the petition by the former Associate Minister and M.P. from the constituency, Gatoloai, was set down for hearing several weeks ago. 

“It is simply unacceptable for counsel to come along on the morning of the hearing to ask for adjournment on the basis of some speculation of what will be discussed in the forum,” said the Chief Justice. 

The application for an adjournment was dismissed and the hearing proceeded on Monday morning. 

The leaders of H.R.P.P. and caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and F.A.S.T. leader and Prime Minister-elect, Fiame Naomi Mataafa met for the first time last week to negotiate a way forward. 

The leaders were expected to meet again on Monday. 

The initial Leaders meeting followed a decision from the Court of Appeal, accepting H.R.P.P's appeal for a sixth woman in Parliament. 

But the installation of the sixth woman in Parliament can only be made after all electoral petitions and by-elections are completed, and is only done if the appointment is still required. 

The caretaker Prime Minister has made it clear that their position is to remain as caretaker until all the petitions are dealt with, to see the end result. Tuilaepa also indicated earlier they had wanted to negotiate with F.A.S.T. on conditions to withdraw all petitions and to return to the polls to get a clearer result of election. 

But Fiame on the other hand insists that the results are clear that her party has the majority, by one seat, to take over Government. 

She also acknowledged the need for Parliament to convene following the Court of Appeal decision. 

Tuilaepa and his party maintained that Parliament cannot convene without the installation of the sixth woman in Parliament, arguing it would be in contravention of Article 44(1a) of the Constitution. 

It was also the reason why the H.R.P.P. supported the call to suspend Parliament on 24th May – the 45th day after polling day and the latest Parliament was allowed to convene. 

The Court of Appeal made no reference to Parliament being unable to convene without having the sixth woman M.P.

In their decision on a motion to stay the execution of voiding Aliimalemanu Alofa Tu’uau’s seat, the Court of Appeal said should they find that she is the sixth woman M.P. then she would be entitled to enter Parliament. 

The panel of Justices ruled that the sixth woman M.P. not being able to sit in Parliament at the time would not be rendered nugatory or worthless, it is simply that her membership is delayed. 

“We do not consider the inability to attend the opening of the Legislative Assembly as a matter of sufficient prejudice to the second appellant,” the Court found. 

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