Time for J.S.C. to move on, promote rule of law

It is time for the Judicial Service Commission to move on after a tumultuous three months that left Samoa’s Constitution on life-support and the country’s image on the international stage tarnished.

The various actions by the previous Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Government to hold onto power, immediately following the April general election, were later ruled unconstitutional and unlawful by the Supreme Court and later the Appellate Court which ultimately led to the installation of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) Government.

So reports of the J.S.C. continuing to weigh the merits of a complaint filed by the H.R.P.P. against the Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Sativa Perese and the other Judges generally, as reported in the Wednesday 4 August 2021 edition of the Samoa Observer, are a cause for concern.

The secretary of the commission and Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice, Moliei Simi Vaai told this newspaper that the J.S.C. met last week to consider the complaint and wrote to the party to inform them of the progress of their discussions. 

“There are things required from the complainant,” Ms. Vaai said in an interview. “There is no outcome yet. 

“Its preparations on the assessment that J.S.C. is looking into…that is all I can say.” 

We respect the process that the commission has undertaken, in regards to this complaint that was filed by the party on 2 July 2021.

But it is time for the J.S.C. to seriously look at the merits of the complaint and make a decision that puts the nation’s interest ahead of a party, which in recent weeks tried to manipulate the laws to suit their own interest and were the instigators of the political crisis that engulfed this nation.

Why should the commission continue to prolong this matter when it is publicly known the H.R.P.P. only filed the complaint against the Chief Justice and the Judges because their election candidates and the party were on the losing side of the Court rulings?

Surely the J.S.C. members have seen in recent days how Tuilaepa has conducted himself in relation to the protests against the Judiciary and his continued promulgation of the false narrative that the decision of the Appellate Court on 23 July 2021 to install the F.A.S.T. Government wasn’t in line with Samoa’s Constitution.

Now right there is one reason why that 2 July 2021 complaint that was filed by the H.R.P.P. should be rejected outright by the commission. 

It is malicious in nature and an abuse of process – the decision by the J.S.C. to continue to “weigh the merits” of the complaint five weeks after it was lodged – only gives misinformed party members and leaders more ammunition to persist with their unjustified criticism targeting the Judiciary.

So to what end will the party go in order to return to its glory days as a country with a one-party state regime?

The members of the HRPP should use as a point of reference recent remarks by the Samoa Law Society’s Vice President Su’a Hellen Wallwork (Court decisions final: Law Society) in the 4 August 2021 edition of this newspaper. 

“As far as I am aware, the Court of Appeal is our highest court and its decisions are final,” she said.

Perhaps the party machinery has forgotten or conveniently chose to forget, that these are the same Courts and esteemed members of the bench, who have delivered justice and continue to do so over all these years and have earned the respect of the community within Samoa as well as the international community.

Tuilaepa is delusional to think he can change the goalpost of justice every time a court proceeding results in a ruling against him, his party or his Government.

That is not how the rule of law in a democratic society such as ours works: Samoa’s Constitution stipulates everyone is equal before the eyes of the law and are governed by the same rules.

There is no separate law for the Head of State nor a caretaker Government or a caretaker Prime Minister for that matter.

So after three months of political wrangling, which has left our democratic institutions battered and bruised due to unwarranted attacks orchestrated by the country’s oldest political party and its leadership, it is time to rebuild our institutions and promote national unity and the J.S.C. can contribute to this cause.

It can start by advising the H.R.P.P. that there are no grounds for its complaint and to do so – with the matters on the constitutionality of the former Government’s actions before the Chief Justice and his Judges in the Supreme Court and later the Appellate Court at that time – could have had wider implications for the rule of law and Samoa’s future as a democratic nation.

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