The law breakers and respect for public office
Just the other day, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries took to social media to call out his Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) rivals on their role in scandalising the Courts.
La'auli Leuatea Schmidt was referring to the Supreme Court’s judgement last month, which ruled the H.R.P.P. and Opposition Leader, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, party Secretary Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi and senior lawyer, Maiava Visekota Peteru guilty of scandalising the Courts.
We are unsure of the inspiration behind La'auli’s Facebook live stream on Sunday, perhaps, it was an indirect attempt to reach out to his Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party member and House Speaker, Papalii Lio Masipau. Questions linger on whether Samoa’s longest serving prime minister, and his party secretary brought the House into disrepute, through their actions which the Court found to be unbecoming of the public offices they currently occupy.
Five weeks out from celebrating Samoa’s 60th Independence Anniversary, last year’s 4-month long constitutional crisis that followed the 9 April 2021 General Election and threatened our democracy, appears to be a distant memory.
As though we too have had a spell cast over us by another version of the “Harmony Agreement”, which both the H.R.P.P. and F.A.S.T. party leadership signed less than 2 weeks out from the start of the Supreme Court proceedings, in a bid to get the Court to discontinue the contempt of court proceedings.
The Court scrutinised the said Agreement when it was brought to its attention: “On 15 February 2022 the applicants and first, third and fifth to eighth respondents filed joint memoranda seeking discontinuance of the proceedings on the ground that they had come to an agreement.
“The main agreement, which we will refer to as the “Harmony Agreement”, is set out in Appendix A to this judgement. In essence the parties agreed that to achieve harmony in Samoa they should discontinue these proceedings.
“We declined to accept the discontinuance. The interests of Samoa certainly included putting public disputes behind it. The parties were uniquely well-qualified to make that assessment. However the interests of Samoa also included restoration of the rule of law.”
So you can imagine our surprise to see the F.A.S.T. party Chairman call out his H.R.P.P. rivals in a social media post on Sunday evening.
In retrospect, if the Court had been allowed to run its full course – without the submission of a Harmony Agreement – then it would have been at liberty to consider all manner of penalties to apply, after it found the contemnors guilty.
At that time the ball was in the court of the F.A.S.T. Administration to let the Court use its wisdom, to apply penalties where it saw fit in order to restore the rule of law, after months of sustained attacks by the caretaker government and its leadership supported by a number of constitutional office holders.
The irony behind the story of Samoa’s constitutional crisis a year ago, is everyday we get inundated with coverage of the U.S. Government’s ongoing investigations into the 6th January 2021 Capitol Hill attacks, when 2,000–2,500 supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. in a bid to stop the swearing-in of America’s 46th President Joe Biden.
Since that fateful day when American democracy came under attack, over 800 people have been arrested and charged with various crimes connected to the events of 6 January 2021 and investigations into Mr Trump’s role in the riots are ongoing.
The efforts of the U.S. authorities to get the rioters and their leaders to face the full force of the law confirms their unwavering loyalty to their constitution and the democratic ideals that their forefathers envisioned and created for their nation.
The Supreme Court, in its judgement last month, accepted the wisdom of the F.A.S.T. and H.R.P.P. leadership as envisioned by the Harmony Agreement to opt for peace and reconciliation after a tumultuous period in Samoa’s democratic history.
But it is somewhat disingenuous of one of the architects behind that Agreement to come out a couple of weeks later and cry wolf over the conduct of his political rivals, when his party had the opportunity there and then to right those wrongs.
With the Parliament reconvening on Tuesday, we urge our leaders to take their parliamentary roles and responsibilities seriously, and to respect their public offices and the people and the constituencies that they represent.
Let us not take our democracy and democratic institutions for granted: let us nurture it, respect its institutions and systems and processes, and above all uphold the rule of law.
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