The former leader of Samoa has accused Jacinda Ardern of instigating his country’s recent political crisis, claiming she had sought to install a female prime minister.
“I am starting to get suspicious maybe New Zealand is behind all of this,” said Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in an interview with Samoan channel TV1.
Tuilaepa had been prime minister of the Pacific nation for more than 22 years, making him the second-longest serving in the world, before he was ousted in a shock election upset earlier this year.
He was beaten by his former deputy leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who became the country’s first female prime minister at the end of July after she defected from the Human Rights Protection party (HRPP), which had ruled Samoa for 39 years.
It took several months before Tuilaepa would accept Fiame’s victory in the April election. During this time, he questioned courts’ decisions and accused Fiame and her MPs of “treason.”
Fiame and other MPs from her party were also locked out of the parliament building when they were due to be sworn in to parliament.
The victory has been ruled both legal and constitutional by Samoa’s courts and recognised as legitimate by leaders around the world.
The interview is the most recent example of the former prime minister attempting to cast doubts over his successor’s victory.
“The government [of New Zealand] has been heavily involved,” he alleged, reported a translation of the interview by the Samoa Observer.
He added: “It looks like the New Zealand prime minister wanted Samoa to have a female prime minister, which has blinded [Ms Ardern] from seeing if it’s something that is in line with our constitution. But like that English proverb says: ‘the end justifies the means’.”
At the end of July, following several months of political turmoil, the Samoan court of appeal ruled Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party was the official winner of the national election. This meant Fiame became the country’s prime minister.
New Zealand is Samoa’s closest ally and Ms Arden was one of the first world leaders to offer Fiame her congratulations. This was seen as a key moment in the international community accepting her victory as Samoa’s prime minister.
Tuilaepa suggested Ms Arden’s prompt congratulations were “proof” that the New Zealand government had “planned this all along”.
“The proof is, as soon as the [court] decision was handed down, the prime minister of New Zealand immediately sent her congratulatory message,” he said. “The fact that she quickly sent Fiame her well wishes makes me think that they had planned all of this.”
A spokerperson from Ms Ardern’s office told The Independent that they rejected the allegations and that they are unfounded.
The Pacific has the lowest rate of female political representation anywhere in the world and Fiame is only the second woman to lead a country in the Pacific Islands. The first was Hilda Heine, former president of the Marshall Islands.
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