Tuilaepa wants judges taken off contempt case

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 02 July 2021, 9:20PM

The caretaker Prime Minister and Attorney General are filing a recusal application to prevent certain justices from sitting in judgement on a contempt of court citation brought against both of them. 

Caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, Attorney General, Mareva Betham-Annandale, outgoing Speaker Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei have been cited for contempt of Court for allegedly obstructing the convening of Parliament. 

(The Supreme Court had ordered Parliament to sit on May 23, following an attempt by the Head of State to revoke an earlier call he had made for Parliament to convene just days prior for reasons he said would become clear in "due course").

In addition, the caretaker Prime Minister has also been cited for "scandalising" the Court through public remarks that is alleged to have disparaged its abilities and undermined its authority. 

Lawyer Dr. Rodney Harrison acting for Tuilaepa and Savalenoa told the Court this week that he will be filing a recusal application against a panel of Justices of the Supreme Court. 

Specifically, he said, the caretaker Government figures want justices who ruled on a special Sunday hearing that Parliament sit to be recused from the case. 

That matter was presided over by the Chief Justice, His Honour, Satiu Simativa Perese, alongside Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.

The contempt matter was called for civil mention this week before Chief Justice, His Honour, Satiu Simativa Perese.

Dr. Harrison said the recusal of the Justices is on the grounds that the contempt of court citation against his clients simply originated from the Supreme Court's orders on Sunday, 23 May.  

Chief Justice Perese instructed the lawyer to make the appropriate recusal application and said the court would determine its meti. 

Another issue addressed by Dr. Harrison is the “urgency” to deal with the contempt citation from F.A.S.T. 

The lawyer disagreed that the matter should be accorded any priority. 

But his opposing counsel, Ben Keith, said the case must be dealt with urgency because of concerns that the same actors will defy another order from the Supreme Court last week that Parliament convenes by next Monday at the latest;

Similarly, Chief Justice Perese also instructed Mr. Keith to make similar a similar application for urgency which would be dealt with at the same time as the recusal application. 

The matter has been adjourned until 12 July so that the appropriate applications may be filed by the parties. 

The outgoing Speaker was represented by Ruby Drake while Fepuleai Patrick Fepuleai acted for Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. 

Tiatia has been cited for refusing to perform his statutory functions and stands accused of breaching Article 52 of the constitution and declarations from the Court on 17 and 23 May.  

The day after the Supreme Court ordered Parliament to convene, members of the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party assembled outside a locked Parliament building to conduct its own swearing-in ceremony on Parliamemt's lawns. Tiatia appeared an apologised to the members in waiting, saying he was "constrained" from carrying out his duties because he reports to his superior. 

The Attorney-General has been cited for issuing a Press Release on 27 May that alleged the Court was not impartial and independent, which is alleged to have brought the court into disrepute. 

That statement made a number of wide ranging criticisms of Samoa's justices, including claims that the Chief Justice was biased because he was allegedly a "close relative" of F.A.S.T.'s leader, Fiame Naomi Mataafa, and that it would not be possible to receive a fair trial under the current judges. 

That statement was retracted some nine hours later; Savalenoa said it had been distributed without proper authorisation and apologised "profusely" to the judges named in the original release.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 02 July 2021, 9:20PM
Samoa Observer

Upgrade to Premium

Subscribe to
Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy unlimited access to all our articles on any device + free trial to e-Edition. You can cancel anytime.