Home WORLD ‘Patience is key’: Samoa’s PM-Elect hopes before ruling | Political News

‘Patience is key’: Samoa’s PM-Elect hopes before ruling | Political News



She is one of the most experienced politicians in the Pacific Islands, but FAST (Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi) party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa won 51 parliamentary seats in the Samoa election last month 26 of them, claiming victory, are facing the greatest battle of her 36 years in politics.

Since the poll on April 9, the island nation of Polynesia, with a population of about 199,000, has been in an unprecedented political stalemate.

Many analysts believe that the rise of FAST under the leadership of former Deputy Prime Minister Mata’afa is the first sign of a serious electoral challenge to the current Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) in decades. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi (Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi) led. 22 years in office.

But few people expected the roller coaster ride of drama and conspiracy that would sweep the country and the region thereafter.

Despite the uncertainty, the 64-year-old is still very calm.

“If the caretaker government keeps throwing these things at us, we just have to go through it, and of course, the court will accept them and go through due process. So, I think patience is the key,” Mata Afa said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

Last week, the election deadlock appeared to have been broken after the two major parties declared their victory with 26 seats.

Mata’afa resigned in September 2020 and then joined the FAST party. After the Supreme Court rejected the HRPP request to obtain an extra-parliamentary seat to meet the women’s representation rules, he was originally scheduled to be sworn in as the new prime minister on May 24, leading the FAST Party to lead one Seats.

On May 24, after the refusal of Samoa’s long-ruling government, she was sworn in as Samoa’s first female prime minister at a makeshift tent ceremony in Apia. The white man sitting in the middle sat in the middle, and Fiame Naomi Mata’afa gave up that power [Malietau Malietoa /AFP]

However, in order to prevent the transfer of power, Malielegaoi desperately locked the door of the Samoan Parliament.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was not deterred and was sworn in at an informal ceremony in a large tent nearby. The HRPP referred to this action as “treason.”

Mata’afa rejected this claim.

“All the time, we have been abiding by the laws related to elections… I tell you that our courts have really stood up. This is very critical at this time, because we don’t have a parliament and the caretaker government is a temporary arrangement,” she Say. Say. “So, this is a functioning body, thank goodness, it is functioning.”

Veteran cadre

Considering her life experience in public life, her sober long-term view of the current crisis may not be surprising.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is the daughter of Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II, the first prime minister of Samoa after independence, and entered politics for the first time in 1985 as a member of the Lotofaga constituency on the country’s main Upolu island.

She held various ministerial positions in education, women, community and social development, justice, environment and natural resources, until she became the deputy prime minister of the HRPP government in 2016.

Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi has close ties with Beijing and refuses to hand over power [File: Lintao Zhang/Pool via Reuters]

Under her leadership, the FAST party campaigned during the election on issues such as fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law, solving unemployment, and not only reviewing the country’s foreign debt and development project records.

Although she believes that Samoans need to resolve the impasse on their own — and have the ability to do so — Matafa welcomes support from international agencies and bilateral partners.

The United Nations has provided assistance to find a solution, and the Federated States of Micronesia publicly supports the new government.

“The message I got is that Palau will follow the same approach,” she said. “In addition, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth has reached out to help. She has already spoken with the Prime Minister and she has called me,” she said.

Kerryn Baker, a Pacific Politics Researcher in the Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University, added: “The Pacific Islands Forum has proposed to take action in this regard. [mediator] If needed, the new Secretary-General Henry Puna and the Biketawa Declaration can provide a framework to address regional security challenges that can be invoked. But I think many people in Samoa hope that this can be solved domestically, without needing help from international intervention. “

The next obstacle for the FAST party is May 31, when the court will hear Malielegaoi’s appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel the HRPP additional seats in the parliament.

“So, if he is unsuccessful in that matter, will he step down because this is the last handle he really grasped,” Mata Afa asked.

Although the current Prime Minister’s hijacking of the parliament was described as a “bloodless coup,” there is no sign that the island’s parliament is in turmoil.

“This is definitely a very tense and divisive situation for Samoa, but I don’t think it will end in violence,” Baker told Al Jazeera. There are indications that this can be resolved, not necessarily quickly or easily, but it can definitely be resolved through peaceful means. “

Mata’afa agreed: “Samoa is not that kind of place. People are measured; they know the lifestyle of the community in Samoa very well, so it’s important to stay calm and let the process go smoothly.”

Investment under the spotlight

Even with the increasing strength of the police, the prime minister still served as a priority once in the office.

She said: “In terms of development goals, we really want to restore government infrastructure to proper positions.” “Our education and health indicators are very poor. I think in our current government, the primary task of stimulating the economy is Around infrastructure projects. We want to involve a wider population base in the economy, so we want to invest more in how to develop SMEs.”

She is also eager to develop more rigorous development and infrastructure methods in the country, including the Vayusu Bay port project publicly proposed by the Samoan government under Malelegai in 2012.

The project will be funded by China with 100 million U.S. dollars, but it has caused great controversy among the Samoans, who believe it has increased the increasing debt of the Pacific island country to this East Asian country. It is estimated that 40% of Samoa’s foreign debt is owed to China.

The Chief Justice of Samoa, Satiu Simativa Perese, arrived in the Parliament of Apia on May 24, 2021, because he and Samoan Prime Minister Foamo Nami Mata Amara were locked in the Parliament of a Pacific country [Keni Lesa/AFP]

“I was asked a lot of questions about the Chinese project, including the terminal,” she said. “We did not prioritize this. Samoa is a small country, and I think our current entry point is sufficient to meet our needs. I have already contacted Chinese people and they said they would watch [the wharf project], But nothing was signed. “

According to data from the World Bank, although Samoa’s per capita GDP averages about US$4,324, it is estimated that 20.3% of the population lives below the national poverty line, and the unemployment rate is about 14.5%. The youth unemployment rate is close to 32%.

“We have many projects with China, and I think this is an opportunity for us to review,” she said.

“What is the model? Is this the most effective way for us to cooperate with our bilateral partners? But not only China, but also our other development partners,” Mata Afa said. “I think that China, as a development partner and donor, also needs to participate in gatherings and understand some of the rules for working with us. It is always good to do it in an open and negotiated way.”

Strengthening the rule of law is another key goal.

“We have three very controversial bills and they passed Parliament very quickly [last year] This is one of the main reasons I left,” she said.

The new land and title courts, constitutional amendments, and judicial bills have aroused widespread opposition because they are believed to give the executive too much power and weaken the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge the abuse of power by creating new land and title courts . -Reach power.

Mata’afa stated that the legislation resulted in “complete destruction of the judicial and court system” and “a very dangerous precedent” by creating an independent land and property court with a very unclear legal framework.

“I am not saying that we should not have a strong land and property court, but in terms of national legal jurisdiction, it is very important to show who is the highest authority,” she said. “That has always been the Supreme Court, but now this is problematic.”

In addition to these long-term goals, Mata’afa also sees the urgency of adopting a more coordinated response to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Samoa has only recorded 235 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, it sometimes implements internal lockdown measures and restricts international travel and bans cruise ships.

“I know that in the case of elections, no one wants to talk about the direct economic impact of COVID-19, but I think this is one of the things we must deal with quickly,” she said. .


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