Samoa to have seven women MP’s


Samoa will now have seven women members of Parliament after the Supreme Court today ordered the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Li’o Papali’I Ta’eu Masipa’u to swear in three new women MPs “forthwith”.

Chief Justice, his Honour, Satiu Simativa Perese, Senior Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, and Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai handed down the decision this morning.

The decision by the Court means the Human Rights Protection Party members, Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau, Faagasealii Sapoa Feagai, and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party member To’omata Norah Leota are to be sworn in forthwith boosting the number of seats in the House to 54.

The ruling FAST party will now have 31 seats and the opposition HRPP will now have 22 seats.

One seat is yet to be decided with the pending by-election for the Gagaifomauga 2 seat which became vacant after General Election winner Va’ele Iona Sekuini passed away suddenly last month.

The Supreme Court ruled Aliimalemanu and Faagasealii are additional M.Ps pursuant to 44 1a, 44 1a(b), 44 1b of the Constitution.

To’omata will be sworn to be as an additional M.P. under Article 1a (b) and 44 1E of the Constitution.

The court’s decision states that in this case, no further women won constituency seats at November 2021 by-election.

The electoral Commissioner and Head of State warranted the appointment of two women as additional Members pursuant to Article 44, they are appointed members though; they are not yet to be sworn in.

No doubt if there were matters which arose before the swearing-in which disqualified the Members as set out in Article 45, then the Speaker would be entitled to take action to vacate the member seat under part of section 16 of the Electoral Act.

The Justices noted the Speaker in his defense has not raised any such concern.

“For all intents and purposes, Aliimalemanu and Fagasealii are presenting members of the Legislative Assembly and they should be sworn in forthwith.

“The woman with the next highest number of votes after, Aliimalemanu and Fagasealii is Toomata and the court ordered that she should be sworn in forthwith.

“We do not consider there is an issue of double-dipping.”

Leota Tima Leavai’s resignation can only be satisfied by an additional woman becoming an additional member which under their interpretation operates independently.

The judgment stated the applicants argued the electoral commission’s calculation of the highest number of votes was incorrect.

“In carefully prepared arguments Ms Heather-Latu sought to argue that the approach taken by the EC led to outcomes which were capricious, unreasonable, and unfair. Ms. Heather-Latu argued that there was an ambiguity in the meaning of the definition because the phrase “the highest number of votes” was not the same as an assessment based on the percentages achieved by women candidates.”

The Justices pointed out the EC used the same formula he used in the 2016 General Elections, whereby he divided the total number of votes won by a woman candidate in a constitu8ency by the total number of valid votes in a constituency-to get a percemtage of votes gained by women candodates in their respective constituencies.

This approach was supported by Aumua Leung Wai for the respondents.

“Respectfully, we do not intend to traverse Ms Heather-Latu’s thoughtful submissions because we disagree with its fundamental premise.

“One begins the pricess of interpreting a statute by looking at the plain meaning of the words. The need for a fair alrge and liberal interpretations of the words used in order to determine the purpose of the lesgilations arises only where the meaning of Parliament cannot be sufficiently ascertained from the word used.

“Generally, this will occur whne the words are ambigious or they lead to results which would not have been resonably intended. In those types of cases, the Court’s role is to interpret what Parliuament is reasonably understood to have intended.”

The Justices noted they “do not agree” with Latu’s formula argument because there is no ambiguity in the Court’s view.

“Whilst we accept that the phrase the higest number of votes speaks to a numerical accumulation of votesa and not necessarily a percentile, it is clear that Parliament intended the phrase, the highest number of votes to have defined meaning.

“That is obvious from the fact of the definition. It appears to be the case in the context of Article 44, the phrase against the highest number of votes has a statutory definition and is a legal term of fact.”

The Justices accepted the EC”s interpretation of the statutory definition of the phrase highest number of votes. “The EC counted the women candidates valid votes and vdivided that number by the total valid votes in each constituency to arrive at a percentage.”