Scroll down to bottom of article for updates.
As reported by RNZ, Samoa's Parliament in Apia has been locked, leaving the FAST party and leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa unable to enter and form a government as elected in a sitting today.
Mata'afa and her Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party supporters have gathered in a tent on the lawn in front of the parliament, where a heavy though unarmed police presence surrounds the building.
But the doors to the building are locked, with the Clerk of the House and Speaker of Parliament insisting there is no sitting today - a decision that directly contravenes a Supreme Court order.
It is the latest in Samoa's political crisis, where the current administration under longtime leader Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi called for a second election to break a deadlock that resulted from the April 9 election. That was overruled by the Supreme Court.
A later Supreme Court decision handed the FAST party a 26-25 seat majority, opening the way for Fiame Naomi Mata'afa to become Samoa's first female prime minister.
However, before midnight on Saturday, local time, the Head of State Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aleto'a Sualauvi II cancelled today's sitting of Parliament without explanation. He is understood to now be in his home village of Matautu-Falelatai.
In an extraordinary hearing yesterday, the Supreme Court again overruled the head of state's decision, calling for Parliament to sit today. Under the constitution, Parliament must sit within 45 days of an election. Today is the last day for this to be possible.
Updates as it happens
- 11:31 AM - Lance Apulu, spokesman for FAST:
“I see it as democracy being locked down, especially that the people’s representatives who were elected through a general election were locked out of Parliament when they were supposed to have been sworn in and take their seats in the people’s house.”
“I think a coup would be accurate,” he said when asked to describe the events of this morning. “Bloodless but they are actually coups.”
“If you think back over the past several years, our prime minister had been having a spat with Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, as having been a military person and also employing coups, [but] I think there is a relatively close similarity although ours is without the force of the military.”
The party’s leaders are having a meeting to decide their next steps. The party has called for calm, Apulu said, and he asked supporters to leave it to the party.
“It looks as if that despite the declarations and the decisions issued by the Supreme Court, the caretaker government is actually doing things that are contrary to the rule of law.”
- 1:31 PM - HRPP leader and caretaker prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is expected to give another media conference at 5pm today (4pm NZ time) to address the situation.
Meanwhile, more tents have been set up for close to 200 FAST supporters to keep them out of the sun. One of them says they've been told to watch out as "the boys are here to dismantle the tents."
Photo credit: RNZ
- 2:48 PM - Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has tweeted encouraging all parties in Samoa to uphold the rule of law.
Aotearoa New Zealand encourages all parties in Samoa to continue to uphold the rule of law and show respect for their constitution and democratic process.— Nanaia Mahuta (@NanaiaMahuta) May 24, 2021
- 3:17 PM
The FAST Party is going ahead with a swearing-in ceremony, despite being locked out of Parliament.
Already seated and waiting are Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio and Li'o Papalii Masipau. pic.twitter.com/9Pt5bJ9lHE— Renate Rivers (@vaiala) May 24, 2021
FAST is going ahead with the ceremony on the lawn outside of Parliament anyway but no members of the Human Rights Protection Party are there.
It is not clear who will perform the ceremony but the chief justice and several members of Samoa's four royal families are understood to be there.
- 3:47 PM
Police Commissioner Fuiavailili Egon Keil confirms police have had no official notification from any of the three parts of government - legislative, executive, or judiciary - that there is any official ceremony called to swear in a government.
He says he's aware that there is a ceremony going on and that police are there to keep the peace and ensure everyone's safety.