Thursday, September 16, 2021

Samoa's opposition should be sworn in

On Monday, in response to a refusal by HRPP MPs to accept the proper process for being sworn in, Samoa's speaker banned them from parliament. Because they'd also called for a mob, he took the unprecedented step of banning the public too.

These decisions were reasonable at the time. MPs are not allowed to sit and vote until they have been sworn in, and the HRPP's refusal to accept the process effectively made them strangers and not entitled to be present. Their threat to disrupt parliament justified prohibiting their entry. But after Tuesday, the HRPP apparently accepted that they needed to follow the proper process, removing any justification for the ban. Despite this, the speaker continued to prohibit their entry, and at one stage the police threatened to remove them by force. The idea that elected representatives wanting to be sworn in can be barred from doing so by riot police is monstrous, and a mockery of democracy.

The HRPP have now gone to court over the issue, and the supreme court is holding an urgent hearing. So far the court has issued an interim order prohibiting the speaker from taking any measures affecting the HRPP MP's membership of parliament, stopping him from simply declaring their seats vacant. The fact that this was seen as necessary shows a significant distrust of the speaker and the government by the courts, and says a lot about how toxic and arbitrary Samoan politics has become as a result of Tuilaepa and his constitutional crisis.

There will apparently be a ruling later today, and I fully expect the court to order the speaker to stop being a dick and swear in the opposition MPs. While the constitution is silent on the matter (because it seems obvious), the idea that elected MPs would not be allowed to take their seats is simply monstrous and cannot stand in a democracy. And the fact that FAST is even trying to argue it is discreditable and gets their government off to a very bad start. If they want to bring change to Samoa, they should start by ending the HRPP's undemocratic practices and abuse of parliamentary procedure, not by continuing them.

Update: And just minutes after I posted this, the court delivered the expected ruling, ordering that HRPP MPs be sworn in ASAP. I wonder if those who attempted to undermine the judiciary by accusing it of bias will eat their words now?