H.R.P.P. demands immediate swearing in
Former Prime Minister and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.), Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has demanded the party's members-elect be sworn-in immediately after the party successfully challenged a decision to exclude them from Parliamentary sittings this week.
On Thursday the party successfully appealed a decision by the Speaker of the House, Papali’i Lio Masipau, to not allow the party's elected representatives to take the oath of office and take part in this week's sitting of Parliament.
Papali’i's decision was based on the fact that the party, led by the former Prime Minister, had repeatedly refused to acknowledge the Government's authority.
The exclusion of the party's 18 members-elect caused them to lead protests in the Parliamentary precinct, which culminated in Thursday's Supreme Court decision, finding that Papali’i was required under the rules of Parliament to swear the members in.
Tuilaepa claims the decision, which orders the members to be sworn in "forthwith" should be interpreted as Friday morning at 9.30 am, he said during an online broadcast.
Tuilaepa said he was happy with the court's decision.
“It's great news [Thursday] afternoon, we have the decision issued by the court for the Speaker of the House to swear us forthwith and that means, we should be sworn in at 9.30 am when Parliament opens," he said.
But Tuilaepa said the party has been informed that the swearing in ceremony for the members will instead be held on Monday.
"That is not in accordance with the intention of the court and we know the reason why that is the government is trying to postponed are entrance into the debate [of the budget] because they are trying the rush the passing of the budget before we have any contribution to question a lot of their budgetary provisions," he said.
“This is another dirty trick on the part of the Government."
The Speaker's refusal to swear-in the H.R.P.P.'s elected representatives left 18 H.R.P.P. members outside the Parliamentary precinct this week with a heavy Police presence blocking their entry to the Legislative Assembly. Inside, proceedings, including the tabling of the national budget, continued.
However on Wednesday the debate on the $982 million budget was suspended following disruption outside the parliament House.
The commotion taking place just metres from Parliament's chamber came despite a notice from the Ministry of Police and Prisons on Tuesday warning the party's members against entering the Parliamentary compound and emphasising those who did so would face the consequences of breaking the laws of trespass.
Tuilaepa said the party's lawyer will be seeking the court’s indulgence over the postponement of the party's swearing in.
A total of 18 H.R.P.P. members were unsworn due to a decision taken by the Speaker.
H.R.P.P. initially secured 25 seats in the April election but seven by-elections have been called after the party's Members-elect had their victories challenged in court, thus voiding their elections and giving rise to by-elections.
In a letter to Tuilaepa on Monday, on the eve of Parliament's sitting, the Papali’i gave his reasons for rejecting the request from the party to take their oath of allegiance for office when Parliament sat this week.
The party had previously sought to be sworn into Parliament by the Head of State, not the Speaker himself, in contravention of Parliament's standing orders.
Papalii's letter noted the party’s numerous broadcasts showed their continual opposition and non-acceptance of the current Government led by the F.A.S.T. which was sworn-in on 24 May 2021.
“Your unceasing refusal to accept the swearing-in which occurred on the mentioned date also means that you do not accept my position as Speaker,” he said.
“Because of these reasons, a swearing-in of the Human Rights Protection Party will not take place at the Parliament sitting on Tuesday 14th September 2021.
“Since there will be no swearing-in on Tuesday, your Members who have not been sworn in will not be allowed to attend the sitting.”
Tuilaepa described the Speaker's reasoning as "weak" and vowed to challenge it.