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‘Patience is the key’: Samoan PM-elect awaits trial | Political News

He is one of the best-known politicians in the Pacific, but Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the leader of the FAST party (Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi), which won 26 of the 51 parliamentary seats in Samoa last month to secure victory. , is looking at the biggest war of its 36 years in politics.

The island nation of Polynesia, home to some 199,000 people, has been experiencing unprecedented political turmoil since the election on April 9.

Many observers have seen the rise of FAST, led by Mata’afa, the second prime minister, as the first sign of decades of opposition to the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), led by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has been in office for 22 years.

But only a few expect the playful and dramatic festivities that have affected the country and their region ever since.

Despite uncertainty, the 64-year-old remains uncompromising.

“If the current government continues to throw these things at us, we just need to get through it and the courts will take them and follow the right course. Therefore, I think patience is the secret, “Mata’afa told Al Jazeera.

Last week, it looked like before the election, with both parties winning every 26 seats, they were defeated.

Mata’afa, who resigned in September 2020 before joining the FAST Party, was due to be sworn in as the new Prime Minister on May 24 after the Supreme Court rejected HRPP’s request for a seat on the by-elections. .

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, a white midwife, sits with councilors and courts as she is sworn in as Samoa’s new prime minister in Apia on May 24 at a tent ceremony after the island’s long-running government relinquished power. [Malietau Malietoa /AFP]

But, in an effort to prevent a change of power, Malielegaoi closed the doors of Samoan law.

Undeterred, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa vowed to work on a non-consensual ceremony at a nearby palace, which HRPP called a “rebellion”.

Mata’afa opposes this.

“All this time, we have been following the election law… and I can tell you, our courts have really stood, which is very important at the moment because we do not have a parliament and the labor government is the creator,” he said. He said. “He is a working team and we are grateful that he is working.”

An old leader

His long-term hopeless view of the crisis would not be surprising, given the fact that he had found him a lifelong member.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is the daughter of Samoa’s first Prime Minister of Independence, Fiame Mata’afa Faumuina Mulinu’u II, and became involved in politics as a member of Lotofaga district on the main island of Upolu in 1985.

She held various positions in the ministry of education, women, development and development, justice, environment and environment until 2016, when she became the Deputy Prime Minister in the HRPP government.

Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, who has formed close ties with Beijing, has refused to relinquish power. [File: Lintao Zhang/Pool via Reuters]

Under his leadership, the FAST Party made a number of decisions on issues such as the fight against corruption, the rule of law, the fight against unemployment, and the review of non-foreign loans and the history of development activities.

Although they believe that the Samoans need to overcome their problems – and that they can do so – Mata’afa has received the support of international organizations.

The United Nations has already provided assistance in finding a solution, and the Federated States of Micronesia have publicly supported the new government.

He said: “They told me that Palau would do the same thing. “Also, the Commonwealth Secretary General has spoken, has spoken to the Prime Minister and called me again,” he said.

Kerryn Baker, a Pacific political associate with the Department of Pacific National University in Australia, added, “The Pacific Islands Forum is committed to taking action. [mediator] Responsibilities if necessary, through the new Secretary General, Henry Puna, and the Biketawa Notice provide a solution to the regional security issues that may be requested. But I think most people in Samoa are hoping that this can be done in this country, without using other countries. ”

The next case of the FAST Party is May 31, when the court will hear an appeal from Malielegaoi against the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel the HRPP’s extra seat in parliament.

“Therefore, if he has not done well in this regard, then he will have resigned, because that is the last phase on which he relies,” asked Mata’afa.

While the parliamentary robbery of the prime minister was described as a “bloodless invasion”, there is no indication that the island nation will be in turmoil.

“This is very difficult and divisive in Samoa, but I don’t think it will end with violence,” Baker told Al Jazeera. There is no indication that this can be done, not quickly or easily, but peacefully. ”

Mata’afa admits: “Samoa is not a place. People are so tempted; he is well aware of how Samoa works together, that it is important to remain calm and let things happen. ”

Investment on display

Despite the ongoing power struggles, the newly elected Prime Minister remains clear on his needs during his tenure.

“We want to restore infrastructure in the state instead, according to development goals,” he said. “Our indications for health and wellness are very high. I think that with our modern government, the triggers for economic growth have been centered around construction projects. “We want to participate in the economy, so we want to spend more money to support small and medium-sized businesses.”

He is also keen to create a strong development and infrastructure strategy for the country, including the controversial port operations in Vaiusu Bay that the Samoan government, led by Malielegaoi, publicly launched in 2012.

The project, which was to be funded by China to the tune of $ 100m, has been particularly difficult for Asamoa, which sees a rise in Pacific Island interest rates in East Asia. About 40% of foreign debt in Samoa is in debt to China.

Samoa Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese arrives at the Apia Parliament House on May 24, 2021, where he and Fiamo’s newly elected Prime Minister of Fiamo Naomi Mata’afa are detained outside the Pacific Parliament [Keni Lesa/AFP]

“I’ve been asked a lot of questions about China’s operations, including the port,” he said. “We do not prioritize this. Samoa is a small country and I think what we are entering right now is enough to meet our needs. The Chinese have been reached and said they are looking [the wharf project], but nothing signed. ”

While Samoa has an average GDP of $ 4,324, according to the World Bank, about 20.3% of the population lives in extreme poverty and unemployment is about 14.5%. Adolescent unemployment is about 32%.

“We’ve had a lot of work with the Chinese and I think this is an opportunity to reconsider,” he said.

“What has been the response? Is this the best way we can work with our friends? But not only China, but also some of our developed friends, too, ”Mata’afa said. “I think China, as a development partner and sponsor, should also come to the party and understand some of the rules regarding how you work with us. It is always best to do it freely and with dedication. ”

Law enforcement is another important goal.

“We had three conflicting bills that were settled in parliament very quickly [last year] and it was one of the main reasons for my departure, ”he said.

The new Land and Titles Court, Constitution Amendment and Judicature Bill sparked widespread controversy when it appeared to be giving more power to the Supreme Court and weakening the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge the abuse of power by making the New Land Court and Heads reach power.

Mata’afa said the ordinance resulted in “complete disregard for the law and the courts” and, in creating the Independent Land and Titles Court with unspecified rules, “a serious threat”.

“I’m not saying we don’t have to have a strong Land and Titles Court, but according to international law, it’s important to say who’s the greatest,” he said. “Today has become the Supreme Court, but now it’s a question.”

Beyond long-term goals, Mata’afa also saw the need to take positive action in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.

While Samoa has documented only 235 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak, in some cases, it has instituted measures to shut down internal controls, as well as to restrict the movement of foreign ships.

“I understand that, at the time of the election, no one wants to talk about what has happened to the economy with COVID-19, but I think it is one of the things that we will have to get soon,” he said. .

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