Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Samoa's dictator drops the mask

Last week, Samoa's Supreme Court attempted to end its ongoing constitutional crisis, ordering parliament to meet within a week so that a government could be elected and "the business of the nation can proceed". On Sunday night, the day before the deadline expired, the head of state decided to defy the court, and purported to defer parliament's sitting until August. The court has not yet responded, and the head of state is immune from civil and criminal prosecution anyway, but it looks like there's now going to be an explicit confrontation, rather than the easy, democratic solution the court has been striving for.

Meanwhile, the HRPP, in the aftermath of the court (provisionally) ruling that the May 24th "swearing in ceremony" was unconstitutional and void has escalated again, lodging a criminal complaint against FAST MPs, alleging that they had:

consistently incited members of the public to be hostile, violent and to rise up against the Government of Samoa and calls for charges be brought against him.

Leala'ilepule also said FAST leadership presented themselves as the new and official Government of Samoa.

So, claiming truthfully to have won an election and asking that the government obey the constitution and allow parliament to meet so there is no doubt as to who holds its confidence is inciting violence against the regime. That's some China-level bullshit right there. But it gets worse, because from the Samoa Observer article [paywalled], that second bit appears to be a treason charge:
“F.A.S.T. leaders continued to [allegedly] act as through they were the legally appointed Government of Samoa and have purposely used the force of media [and] live announcements to attempt the overthrow of the Government of Samoa," Leala said.
Like New Zealand's, Samoa's treason law (s40 here) requires the use of actual violence. The idea that media and public statements would qualify is absolutely laughable, and I expect it to be laughed out of court (if it even gets that far). But it does show us explicitly what the HRPP thinks of democracy and democratic advocacy, and its a very ugly picture. When a party in a democracy attempts to have its opponents charged with treason for peaceful advocacy, it is clear that they are no longer committed to democracy.

(As for the "inciting violence" claim, the charge here seems to be s41, "Inciting to hostility". This explicitly requires "circumstances where there is a present risk of lawlessness, violence or disorder in Samoa". It is left as an exercise for the reader to determine whether such circumstances exist anywhere outside the tyrant Tuilaepa's imagination).