Samoa’s defeated Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi on Monday refused to step down after losing the election in April even though the Supreme Court of the country asked lawmakers to elect a new leader.
Mr Malielegaoi, who had been prime minister for over 22 years, plunged the country in a constitutional crisis by suspending the swearing-in of prime minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa — that was supposed to take place on Monday. The Supreme Court had overturned this. Mr Malielegaoi has also locked the parliament building from inside and has refused to let in Ms Mata’afa.
Ms Mata’afa, opposition leader who is set to be sworn in, has called it a “bloodless coup.” She says she is suspicious of the incumbent prime minister.
“This is an illegal takeover of the government, essentially that’s what coups are,” she told the media.
Ms Mata’afa is set to become the first woman prime minister of the country following the elections.
The country’s constitution requires that politicians meet within 45 days of an election. Monday was the deadline to swear in the new leader of the country.
Ms Mata’afa says: “He doesn’t want to acknowledge defeat, he doesn’t want to leave the seat of power. We have to fight this because we want to retain this country as a country that is democratically ruled premised on the rule of law.”
Meanwhile, police have been on the standby.
Samoa’s chief justice and judiciary and police commissioner were also locked out of the parliament building, in their full ceremonial robes.
The clerk of the parliament house told Ms Mata’afa and her supporters that he had received orders to keep the building locked from the Speaker of the House and the incumbent prime minister Mr Malielegaoi himself.
Local reports said that Ms Mata’afa publicly urged the clerk to open the parliament building’s door. “We need brave Samoans right now, return the power to the hands of the people, to our people to uphold our election. We pray to you, you can do this.”
Meanwhile, Ms Mata’afa has urged Pacific leaders to back a fair democratic process. “Because it’s a bloodless coup, people aren’t so concerned or disturbed by it.”
“We will continue to sit here in the hallowed grounds of parliament that belongs to our people. If you will not let us into the house, we will stay here. We have all waited, they have all waited, the Paramount Chiefs, the Chiefs and all of us. There will be a time, when we will meet again, inside that house. Let us leave it to the law,” she also told her supporters.
Pat Conroy, the Australian Shadow Minister for the Pacific, said that the country was “greatly concerned” by what’s happened in Samoa. He said: “The Samoan people expressed their will at the election recently, I call on all sides of politics to respect that expression.”
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