Protest marches, the Big Lie and democracy

It is incredulous Samoa’s oldest political party chooses to allow itself to become a vehicle of social disharmony with plans for more protests against the Judiciary by party supporters in the coming days.

Just when citizens start to ease back into their normal lives, following close to four months of turmoil that subsided when the Appellate Court installed the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government last Friday, and the former prime minister and Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) leader Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi urges party supporters to rally against the Court by protesting.

A story in the Thursday 29 July 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer (H.R.P.P. rallies against the Judiciary) gave details of a meeting on Wednesday between the defeated party leader and over 500 supporters at the party’s headquarters.

Tuilaepa continues to claim that the Courts “failed to guard the Constitution” and the Appellate Court’s decision to install the F.A.S.T. Government was a blow to the Constitution and disregarded the powers of the Head of State.

In the meeting on Wednesday he threw his support behind party supporters’ plans for a vehicle convoy protest on Friday afternoon and a march next week and urged them to protest against the “injustice” of the Court.

So what do the H.R.P.P. membership and their leaders hope to gain out of these protests planned for this Friday and next week?

Will the protests restore the party’s 47 constituency seats majority that it enjoyed in the last Parliament?

Will the protests return the party’s long-serving leader to the helm of the Government that he ruled over for 22 years?

We ask these questions because we are confused that the H.R.P.P. membership and their leaders don’t see the rationale behind the decisions of the Supreme Court and then the Appellate Court, which ultimately led to the installation of the F.A.S.T. Government last Friday when the Appellate Court recognised the party’s 24 May 2021 impromptu swearing-in outside the Parliament.

Why is Tuilaepa lamenting the Court disregarding the powers of the Head of State? Well, the simple answer to that is no one, including the Head of State and Tuilaepa himself, are above the Constitution.

It is the Constitution that breathes life into the position that His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II currently holds.

It was the Constitution that breathed life into the Prime Ministership that Tuilaepa held consecutively for 22 years – renewed through five-year electoral cycles – until the April election when the F.A.S.T. won 25 seats at the expense of the H.R.P.P. and secured a simple majority to form the government. 

The mechanics of Samoa’s electoral process is basic and easy to understand so the party that returns with the largest number of constituency seats after a general election gets to form the next Government.

Again, it is Samoa’s Constitutional framework that provides the basis for general elections held per five-year electoral cycles.

So it is mind boggling that Samoa’s longest serving now former prime minister chose not to understand nor appreciate the foundations of our democracy, and appears to be on a warpath to make life difficult for his successor.

But funnily enough our beloved Constitution also caters for that level of scrutiny of an incumbent Government, though minus the emotional contagion, through the Opposition Leader’s position.

Therefore, perhaps, the former Prime Minister would like to channel his energy to the chamber of the House when the XVII Legislative Assembly is in session so he can keep the F.A.S.T. Government accountable?

He did announce to Samoa and the world, in his concession speech as the H.R.P.P. leader on Monday, that he would give 500 per cent to his role as the Leader of the Opposition and take the Government to task.

But strikingly, the meeting on Wednesday between Tuilaepa and his party supporters, had all the hallmarks of a rally organised for the disgraced U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump continues to falsely claim to this day that the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election was stolen from him.

So it isn’t surprising that the former Prime Minister is already echoing Trump-like sentiments in recent days of his party being robbed of its place as the legitimate government through the decisions of the Courts.

His call on Wednesday – through the H.R.P.P. Facebook page – for the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court and Appellate Court Judges to step down due to their “lack of credibility” points to how misguided the former Prime Minister has become in his understanding of the norms of parliamentary democracies.

Tragically, there are 500-plus H.R.P.P. supporters who believe every word he says, and will continue to be misled by Samoa’s version of a “big lie” of a stolen election, perpetrated by a man who is blaming everyone else except himself and his leadership for his party’s loss in the April election.

From the outset if the former Prime Minister thinks the Judiciary is the cause of months-long constitutional crisis and his Government’s loss of office, then he needs to revisit the chronology of events since the declaration of the 9 April election results, and make a connection between the decisions of his own government officials and the intervention of the Courts in line with their constitutional mandate.

Ordinary citizens know who tried to manipulate Samoa’s laws for their political convenience at the expense of the rule of law, and having lived close to four months in a democracy in freefall, they know it would be too big a price to pay. 

Nevertheless the people spoke through the ballot in the April election so let them be: let them get back to their plantations, harvest their talo, go fishing and get back to work and all the while waking up to another day, thankful that we are indeed blessed to be living in a democracy.

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