Crises strengthen democracies: Nanai Dr. Iati

The constitutional crisis faced by Samoa is “just a bump on the road” and when it has been resolved the country will be better for it, Samoan political scientist Nanai Dr. Iati Iati says, 

Nanai, whose research areas focus on New Zealand foreign policy, Pacific geopolitics and governance and development, made the comments on Friday during panel discussion that provided analyses on the crisis in Samoa.

“It’s a complicated situation. I am not of the view that all things are going to hell…we will be better for it,” he said.

Since 1962, when Samoa became a sovereign state, the country has had to merge the Westminister system of government and its customary traditional institutions.

Samoa has had to make “a lot of things work,” in order to effect democracy and its processes Nanai said.

“I would expect that we would have a crisis along the way,” he said.

“It’s just a bump in the road that needs to be sorted out.”

In resolving the crisis, the sovereignty of Samoa must be protected.

The customary traditions of Samoa have not been utilised to resolve the constitutional crisis, Nanai noted. 

But it’s the fa’aSamoa that will solve the political crisis, he added.

“What will resolve this are the traditional institutions…traditional institutions are in play and the country is peaceful…Samoa remains a peaceful stable country,” he said.

Nanai called out Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna who reminded Samoa of the Biketawa Declaration which allows intervention from the Forum.

“That is a platform for intervention,” he said, noting that Samoa must resolve the crisis on her own.

“This is just a bump in the road in Samoa’s democratic process.”

Nanai said he does not favour one side or the other, neither the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) nor the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.).

Before the elections, a number of factors combined to create “the perfect storm for a crisis,” he said.

There have been a lot of accusations levelled at the caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, said Nanai.

“People have been calling him a dictator…that is not fair,” he said.

Before the election, there were several pockets of discontentment.

One pocket of discontentment was the result of the controversial Land and Titles Court Bills of 2020.

“If there were no controversial bills, there would be no F.A.S.T. party. Those bills caused separation by a number of key actors,” Nanai said.

Those actors are F.A.S.T. Deputy Leader Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, Faumuina Wayne Fong and F.A.S.T. leader Fiame Naomi Mataafa.

The L.T.C. bills “created division,” Nanai explained.

“The key players in F.A.S.T. are former H.R.P.P.,” he said.

The vaguely drafted Article 44 was also a factor, specifically its language.

“Interpretations of interpretations,” also contributed to the crisis, said Nanai, pointing to interpretations of the Constitution by the courts which were then interpreted by political parties.

There are areas of Samoa’s democracy that need to be tweaked, he said.

Before the elections, the H.R.P.P. predicted 43 seats but the result after the official count by the Office of the Electoral Commission was 25 for H.R.P.P. and 26 for F.A.S.T.

The close margin also contributed to the perfect storm for a crisis, Nanai said.

“That was a close margin and neither side is backing down,” he said.

Nanai, whose matai title is from Falelatai, is Senior Lecturer at Victoria University’s School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations.

He addressed Samoa’s Constitutional crisis during a panel discussion that included New Zealand-based academics Dr. Anna Powles of Massey University and Fuimaono Dylan Asafo with the University of Auckland.

Nanai’s Ph.D. in Political Science is from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

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