Fiame runs as independent; endorses F.A.S.T.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Lotofaga M.P., Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, has nominated to contest next year’s election as an independent but also endorsed Fa'atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.). 

The Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) veteran, first elected to Parliament in 1985, recently became an independent M.P. after publicly objecting to three bills proposing to amend the constitution and a complete overhaul of the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.). 

Fiame submitted her nomination with the Electoral Office early this afternoon at the S.N.P.F. plaza.

She was joined by F.A.S.T. supporters and fellow independent and former H.R.P.P. M.P. Faumuina Wayne Fong (who last week registered for F.A.S.T.) as she did so.

That led to speculation that Fiame, who was asked by the opposition party’s founder, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt to lead the party, had registered for F.A.S.T. Those flames were fanned when Fiame, after the registration, declined to reveal details of her registration including whether she had registered to stand for a party. 

But in a statement issued late on Tuesday evening, Fiame confirmed she would be standing as an independent candidate.

“Today, with the support of the chiefs and orators of my village and constituency of Lotofaga, I registered as an Independent candidate for the 2021 general elections,” Fiame said in a statement.  

“I decided to register as an independent for the major reason to protect my constituency’s seat and for me to continue to serve as my constituency’s voice in Parliament until the end of the Parliamentary term.”

Faumuina and fellow independent Olo Fiti Vaai last week registered as F.A.S.T. candidates but faced having their seats declared vacant under anti-party switching laws contained in the newly amended Electoral Act. 

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed the seat of an independent M.P. would be declared vacant for the remainder of this Parliamentary term if they announce allegiance to another party.

The M.P.s have announced their intention to challenge the validity of having their seats declared vacant and excluded from Parliamentary sittings. 

With their seats vacant, the M.P.s could be absent for periods of Parliament in November and January. During those sessions, a committee soliciting public feedback on the proposed overhaul of the Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) is likely to report to Parliament.

It was a disagreement about the L.T.C. bills that led Fiame to resign not only from her position as Deputy Prime Minister but also from the governing H.R.P.P.

“Last month, I resigned from Cabinet as I could not support the three Bills currently processing through Parliament as it is my view that they will destabilise our country’s justice system, undermine the rule of law and [this legislation] will have serious consequences for us all,” Fiame’s statement said. 

“It is my wish to make a meaningful contribution when the [three] Bills are debated in Parliament for the final third readings and until Parliament is dissolved in January 2021. 

“I have also informed my constituency that I do endorse the Fa’atuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi - F.A.S.T. Party and what it stands for. My constituency has expressed its support for my position. 

“However, I am mindful of the law and will remain an Independent MP until Parliament is dissolved in January 2021.”

On Sunday the Samoa Observer quoted the opinions of two lawyers who said candidates running as independent members in next year’s election would be able to declare their allegiance to a political party, prior to the taking of their oaths at the start of the first sitting of Parliament. 

“It is my prayer that our country remains protected in the hands of our Lord as we head into our national elections to elect a new government. Soifua ma Ia Manuia!,” Fiame said. 

The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, said when nominations close on Friday a complete list of candidates and their party affiliations will be published.  

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