Contempt of parliament restricted says Laauli

Former Speaker, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt says the issuant of Contempt of Parliament charge can only be done inside the House when the Legislative Assembly is in session. 

La’auli was responding to allegations that the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party's ad-hoc swearing-in ceremony on 24 May under a tent was in contempt of parliament.

The legitimacy of that event where all 26 elected Members of Parliament for F.A.S.T. were sworn-in in the absence of the Head of State and other bureaucrats will be called next week. 

However, the former Speaker believes that any actions to bring the party into contempt of parliament would be restricted and cannot be exercised by a caretaker Government authority. 

“The powers and privileges can only be issued by the Speaker once parliament is in session but nobody is there anymore [Speaker],” he said. 

La’auli added that the caretaker Government continues to make major decisions and are remaining on the payroll when some 70 per cent of them were defeated in April’s General Election. 

From the eleven ministers that held office only four of them successfully returned after polling day. 

“Parliament should convene to discuss the budget but they – those that are no longer members of parliament are deliberating it,” he said. 

“My understanding is that [contempt of parliament] has to be done inside parliament and they do not intervene with the jurisdiction of the Court.” 

Caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said his administration will remain as caretaker only until the final results of the election confirms the new Government. 

He said this is in compliance with the Constitution that allows the caretaker to remain in office until then. 

Tuilaepa also refuses to recognise what he described as a “concert” that took place on 24 May because it was not done according to the Constitution. 

He said the couple that carried out the swearing-in ceremony are playing with fire. 

The elected M.Ps of the F.A.S.T. party were sworn-in by Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu and Matafeo George Latu after the doors to parliament was locked preventing the M.Ps to take their oath.

A late night cancellation of convening of the state opening on parliament from the Head of State on 22 May was challenged by the F.A.S.T. party on an unusual Sunday pickwick hearing. 

The Supreme Court ruled that the purported suspension of parliament is unlawful and indeterminate. 

“The convening of the Legislative Assembly cannot be left until someone decides that it is time for parliament to meet whenever that may be,” the Court concluded. 

“The purported suspension was made without any reasons or explanation. 

"We consider this is inconsistent with the degree of transparency necessary to guard against an arbitrary and improper exercise of power, a matter which applies to these types of discretionary decisions. 

“This is particularly acute in the case of sensitive political situations such as that which has arisen.” 

The Supreme Court also made it clear that Article 52 which is relied on does not give the Head of State the power to avoid or disavow the Constitutional obligation to call parliament to meet no later than 45 days after a general election. 

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