Former Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has accused New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of being behind a political crisis in Samoa, suggesting that she had wanted to install a female prime minister.
“I am starting to get suspicious maybe New Zealand is behind all of this,” Tuilaepa said during an interview with TV1 on Sunday night.
Tuilaepa was prime minister of the Pacific nation for more than 22 years — at the time of the April election, the second-longest serving prime minister in the world — before being ousted in a shock election upset earlier this year.
He was beaten by his former deputy leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who last year defected from the Human Rights Protection party, which had ruled Samoa for 39 years and became Samoa’s first female prime minister at the end of last month.
Tuilaepa refused to accept Fiame’s victory for several months after the election, questioning the courts’ decisions and accusing her and her lawmakers of “treason.”
The interview is the latest example of the former prime minister attempting to cast doubt on the victory of his successor, which has been ruled legal and constitutional by Samoa’s courts and recognized by other world leaders as legitimate.
“The government [of New Zealand] has been heavily involved,” he said. “It looks like the New Zealand prime minister wanted Samoa to have a female prime minister, which has blinded her [Ardern] from seeing if it’s something that is in line with our constitution. But like that English proverb says: ‘The end justifies the means.’”
Samoa endured a protracted electoral crisis following the national election in April, which saw legal challenges, and Fiame and other lawmakers from her party locked out of the parliament building on the day they were due to be sworn in.
At the end of last month, the Samoan Court of Appeal ruled the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi party was the official winner of the national election in April and that Fiame was the prime minister.
She took office last month and was recognized as Samoa’s leader by other leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting the following week.
Ardern was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Fiame on her election as prime minister after the court ruled that her victory was legitimate.
Tuilaepa said that the prompt congratulation was “proof” that the New Zealand government had “planned this all along.”
“The proof is, as soon as the [court] decision was handed down, the prime minister of New Zealand immediately sent her congratulatory message … The fact that she quickly sent Fiame her well wishes makes me think that they had planned all of this,” he said.
A spokesperson for Ardern rejected the allegations, saying they are unfounded.
New Zealand is Samoa’s closest ally, with many Samoans living in New Zealand.
Fiame is only the second woman to lead a Pacific Island country, after Hilda Heine, former president of the Marshall Islands.
The Pacific has the lowest rate of female representation in politics anywhere in the world, with just 6 percent of all lawmakers being women regionally.
Three countries in the world have no women in parliament. All of them — Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Federated States of Micronesia — are in the Pacific.
‘TRAVEL FREELY’: Visitors from 10 countries deemed low-risk would be allowed into Thailand, while others must still undergo a week of quarantine at a hotel Thailand plans to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov. 1, the country’s leader said on Monday, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20 percent of its national income. However, pandemic-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country would be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from
LEFT ALONE: The US withdrawal from Afghanistan has firmed up a belief among Arab leaders that they must chart their own course, such as saving their economies While Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still shunned by the West, who blame him for a decade of brutal war in Syria, a shift is under way in the Middle East, where Arab allies of the US are bringing him in from the cold by reviving economic and diplomatic ties. The extension of al-Assad’s two-decade-old presidency in an election in May did little to break his pariah status among Western states, but fellow Arab leaders are coming to terms with the fact that he retains a solid grip on power. The US’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan has firmed up a belief among
Vaccination is highly effective at preventing severe cases of COVID-19, even against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, a vast study in France has shown. The research published yesterday — focusing on prevention of severe COVID-19 and death, not infection — looked at 22 million people over 50 and found those who had received jabs were 90 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die. The results confirm observations from the US, the UK and Israel, but researchers say it is the largest study of its kind so far. Looking at data collected starting in December last year, when France launched its vaccination campaign,
TWO-TIER DIPLOMACY? Jean-Pierre Thebault said ‘rebuffing a country like France is almost sending a message that there are trusted partners and other partners’ Australian officials lied and raised the risk of confrontation in Asia by crafting a secret submarine deal with the US and Britain that undermined trust in democratic alliances, French Ambassador to Australia Jean-Pierre Thebault said on Friday. France is determined to protect its interests in the Indo-Pacific region and to put “muscle” into Europe’s geopolitical strategy toward an increasingly assertive China, Thebault said in an interview before heading back to his post in Canberra. “The way you treat your allies does resonate in the region,” Thebault said in a gilded chamber in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs building on the banks