- By Johanna Salinas
Support for Mata’afa begins to trickle in as Samoa's crisis continues to mount
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
Guam senators ask US to back FAST Party leader
Editor's Note: This has been updated with comments from Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero
Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes and Sen. Mary Camacho Torres, chair and vice-chair of the 36th Guam Legislature’s Committee on Regional Affairs, urged the U.S. government to recognize the Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as the newly elected prime minister of Samoa.
“Democracy cannot be denied, and we must uphold the values of a free and fair election process and the long-held democratic norms of peaceful transitions. We have seen firsthand the end result of a sitting leader refusing a peaceful transition," Muna Barnes and Torres said in a letter to U.S. officials.
Guam Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has yet to make an official position onMata’afa's position, but said she spoke to the prime minister her the other day.
“She's very much guided by the votes. Of course, Parliament voted for her to be Prime Minister. She's going through legal processes to make it happen. I think they should follow whatever their procedural parliamentary legal processes. If she’s been declared the winner, that would be the course," the governor said.
Leon Guerrero said she did not want this political situation in Samoa to discourage women in the Pacific from pursuing political careers.
“Step up, get in there. Run for public offices,” Leon Guerrero said. “Women can do it, as proven by our Government of Guam.”
Mata'afa took her oath on May 24 amid relentless attempts by her predecessor, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi to block her assumption of office. Mata'afa leads the Faatuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST)
So far, only the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau have officially recognized Mata'afa.
“As women leaders of the Pacific, we are all too familiar with the stigma and challenges of a career in public service," Muna Barnes and Torres said in a letter to U.S. Secretary of StateAntony J. Blinken, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Australia, New Zealand, & Pacific Islands, Ms. Sandra Oudkirk as well as chairwoman Judy Chu of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
"At the same time, it is up to us to pave the way and become the example our daughters dreamed of. As a nation that promotes a free and open Indo-Pacific, we must stand united in our commitment to the fundamental concept of democracy," Guam senators added.
In Cook Islands, opposition leader Tina Pupuke Browne has extended congratulations and support for Mata’afa, encouraging the FAST Party leader to hold the post and continue “standing firm and unwavering.”
In a statement, Browne said PM Mata’afa’s resolve and determination to lead Samoa out of the current constitutional crisis deserves respect and support from neighbouring Pacific island governments and leaders.
“I have deep admiration and respect for Fiame, she’s going up against a former very long-serving PM and certain top officials who still support Tuilaepa (Malielegaoi), all of whom will not accept his defeat at the polls," Browne said in a statement quoted by Cook Islands News.
"He’s trying everything to stay in power and is being aided and abetted by officials who have plunged this beautiful country into a crisis that will long be remembered. This is what Tuilaepa will be remembered for – the complete chaos that he wrecked on Samoa’s governance.”
FAST party has lodged a contempt application in court against Malielegaoi and former Parliament Speaker Toleafoa Faafisi, according to Talamua Online.
“This should not happen especially from those who have held respectful and influential positions in Government,” Talamua quoted Mata'afa as saying.
Last week, Tuilaepa lambasted the judiciary and judges of the Supreme Court for "aligning itself" with the FAST by walking to Parliament on Monday and confirming the parliament chambers doors were locked.