Tagata Pasifika

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Samoa’s political drama a roller coaster of emotions

The dramatic events in Samoa this week had social media running hot and Samoans in New Zealand worried about events back in their homeland. But while emotions have been high, there’s hope here for a peaceful outcome.

They were dramatic scenes on a sunny, Monday morning in Apia – Samoa’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court barred from entering the nation’s parliament buildings.

Looking on, FAST Party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.

“The head of state didn’t come, the legislative office locked the building so we couldn’t access it. But I suppose the Clerk was good enough to come and tell us that he was beholden to his bosses,” she told waiting media.

With a one seat majority, the FAST leader and her elected members were here to fulfill their obligations under the court’s order to convene Parliament, but they too were locked out.

Watching events back in Auckland were members of the Samoan community, like Pacific Business Hub Head Laura Keil-Hall.

“Yesterday was a very emotional day for me personally. I did have times where I shed some tears, seeing the sad state of politics back home,” she says.

Auckland City Councillor Fa’anana Efeso Collins also lamented the state of affairs.

“You’re proud that there may be a change in government but you’re very saddened; I’m very saddened the doors weren’t open,” he says.

“We saw the Supreme Court Judges going over; the doors were shut to them.”

Sandringham EFKS Church minister Rev Dr Featunai Liuaana likened events to an earthquake.

“I suppose I can use the analogy of a massive, you know, 8.1 earthquake in Samoa, and you feel it here in New Zealand. That’s what it’s like.”

Monday’s events were the latest in a roller coaster 45 days since Samoans went to the polls. That time frame is crucial under its constitution, as Parliament had to meet within 45 days to swear in a new government.

With the HRPP party of the caretaker government refusing to attend and senior state officials absent, a swearing-in ceremony involving only the FAST members took place in a tent outside parliament.

PM-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa at FAST's own swearing-in ceremony on Parliament grounds. Photo: Samoa Observer
PM-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa at FAST’s own swearing-in ceremony on Parliament grounds. Photo: Samoa Observer

“I felt like we were losing our democracy with what happened in the morning,” Keil- Hall says.

“But I guess we were more kind of elated towards the evening when the swearing in of the next government happened.”

“Look, I’m glad Samoa doesn’t have a military; the police are doing the best they can to broker the deals that are necessary,” Fa’anana says.

“It’s a difficult process watching from here, because that’s our home island, that’s the nation we’re so proud of, and it’s important we maintain our values and the respect and dignity that comes with being Samoan.”

At Radio Samoa in Auckland, commentator Savea Al Harrington Lavea says ever since election night, Samoan’s here have been passionate about sharing their feelings on air.

“What we’re doing as journalists and broadcasters, as political commentators, is to calm the nerves of our people and to ensure them that there’s a proper way to follow through in terms of the court and the rule of law,” he says.

In many Samoan congregations here, they are praying for peace.

“I can say there’s a lot of prayers in the community at the moment, especially in our own churches, praying for Samoa and for the outcome,” says Rev Dr Featunai.

And it will be the courts again which could decide matters, as Monday’s swearing-in ceremony has been challenged by Samoa’s Attorney General. That hearing will take place next week. Meanwhile, community leaders here call for continued calm.

“I’d love for all the elected MPs to be together, the Head of State, the Chief Justice; everyone there in a proper ceremony that will transition the power, and I think we should be very proud of the fact that we’ve got a female leader of Samoa,” says Fa’anana.

“Look, just have a lot of patience,” says Rev Dr Featunai.

“We are a country that has a lot of faith in God, and if we allow that faith to take its course, I’m pretty sure when everything has ended, it will be the right place for us to be.”

Written by John Utanga
Reporting by John Pulu

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