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Speaker to appeal decision that suspension of 2 Opposition MPs was unconstitutional

Staff Reporters

APIA, SAMOA – 06 JULY 2023: The Speaker of Parliament, Papalii Oloipola Taeu Masipau , is appealing this weeks’ decision by the Supreme Court that found the suspension of two Opposition MPs unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court gave its judgment on Tuesday on the challenges made by HRPP Leader, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Party Secretary, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi to the findings that they were guilty of Contempt of Parliament; the power of suspension exercised  by the  Parliament;  the  penalty of two years’ suspension without pay imposed; and to Standing Orders that govern suspended members.

The matter was heard by the Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese and Justice Leiataulesa Daryl Clark. Their decision delivered by the Chief Justice, held that the penalty of two years suspension for the two Members of Parliament who were found guilty of Contempt of Parliament, was unconstitutional and for that reason, void.

The Court accepted, against the challenges made by the two Members, that:

  • They had committed Contempt and could not challenge that. The Court repeated that the two Members’ actions following the 2021General Election were “reprehensible”.
  • The Parliament has the power to suspend members who are guilty of Contempt.
  • Parliament is entitled to suspend members who have committed Contempt without pay.
“The Court has held that the two year suspension would deprive the Constituents of Lepa and Faleata No 3 of a voice for too long a period, though it has not said what period could or should be imposed or how any such period is to be determined.”

It has also partly upheld the Standing Orders restrictions upon suspended members, but found others to be unconstitutional.

In a media statement this afternoon, the Speaker, said “as the defendant to the case as Parliament’s representative before the Supreme Court, has after careful consideration decided to appeal the parts of the judgment that concern the period of suspension and the Standing Orders.”

The Speaker also said that “our Judicial system provides another avenue where parts of a judgment can be reconsidered, such as the following:

  • The elected Members of the Parliament and its Privileges and Ethics Committee, guided by the 2022 decision of the Supreme Court, undertook a robust and fair assessment of the penalty to be imposed upon the two Members, including hearing what the two Members  had to say against that penalty.
  • The period of suspension was settled by the Committee and the Parliament in light of the reprehensible actions of the two Members. Other Parliaments have suspended Members for similar and even longer periods.
  • The challenged Standing Orders, similarly, were the result of careful consideration by the elected Members.

“The Speaker understands, and respects, that the Supreme Court was faced, here, with those exceptional circumstances and with questions of law that the Courts of Samoa have not previously considered.

“The Speaker welcomes the Court’s confirmation that – despite the arguments made by the two Members – the Parliament is entitled to act firmly in the face of Contempt.

“The Speaker considers, however, that the other parts of the Court’s  decision – and, in particular, the rejection of the decision made by the Committee and the Parliament, without guidance  as to  how  they  should  have  responded to the Members’ reprehensible actions or could act in any future case – raise important questions under the Constitution,” the statement concluded.