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Court voids suspension of Samoa's former prime minister

Apia, SAMOA — Samoa's Supreme Court has voided the parliamentary suspensions of the leader and secretary of the opposition Human Rights Protection Party.

Samoa Observer reports Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke ruled on Tuesday afternoon that the suspension of former prime minister Tuilaepa Sai'lele Malielagaoi and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi was unconstitutional.

Party leader Tuilaepa and Lealailepule were suspended from parliament without pay last October for two years after a government-instigated decision made through a secret ballot vote.

Deputy Prime Minister Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio complained that they had brought Parliament into disrepute after the Supreme Court found them guilty of a contempt of court charge brought against them by the Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa and the FAST party.

The court said for the past nine months of the suspensions their electorates have been denied a voice in the house which breached article 44 (1) of the Constitution and the framework for responsible and representative government, and the suspension is therefore void.

This is the second time the pair have successfully overturned parliamentary suspensions against them.

In May 2022 the Supreme Court overturned their indefinite suspension from parliament.

Both times the suspensions have been instigated by the government in relation to contempt of court convictions against the HRPP leader over his refusal to relinquish power after the April 2021 General Elections.

Tuilaepa said the decision respected free speech.

"The decision today is a landmark decision. It greatly helps our parliament to be aware that the right of all the parliamentarians, the right of free speech should be respected."

Lealailepule said this is the answer from God and he thanked all their supporters.