Samoa’s constitutional crisis: Undermining rule of law

Amid the Covid-19 emergency, a set of legal amendments threatens judicial independence and human rights

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi addresses the general debate of the UN General Assembly, September 2019. Photo by Cia Pak/UN

While the global community struggles to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, Samoa is embroiled in a constitutional crisis. The South Pacific nation is frequently lauded for its good governance and regional leadership. The current crisis, however, has exposed fault lines around race and identity that could significantly undermine Samoa’s democratic institutions and future development.

Immediately prior to declaring the country’s Covid-19 State of Emergency on March 20, Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi introduced into Parliament the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020, Judicature Bill 2020, and Lands and Titles Bill 2020. These bills bring about major constitutional changes that would undermine judicial independence and the rule of law, with significant implications for human rights.