World

Samoa’s 1st female PM takes over at length


Bangladeshpost
Published : 27 Jul 2021 07:38 PM

AP, Wellington

More than three months after winning an election which sparked a constitutional crisis, Samoa’s first female prime minister was finally able to take office on Tuesday.

A smiling Fiame Naomi Mata’afa sat in the chair her predecessor had been reluctant to relinquish after 22 years in power. She held her first Cabinet meeting, with members of her FAST Party dressed in the distinctive red clothes that party members and supporters often wear. Fiame, 64, said they were ready to begin their work.

That could include a reset of the island nation’s relationship with China. On the campaign trail, Fiame had pledged to stop a $100 million port development backed by Beijing, calling the project excessive for a nation that’s already heavily in debt to China.

After a knife-edge election result in April, Fiame’s predecessor Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi refused to concede defeat, despite several court rulings that went against him.

Tuilaepa had two powerful allies in the nation’s head of state and the speaker, who were able to stall the transfer of power.

A bizarre scene played out in May when Fiame and her party were locked out of the Parliament, with Tuilaepa claiming he was still in charge. Both sides accused each other of trying to stage a coup.

Fiame and her party members took oaths and appointed ministers in a ceremony held under a tent in front of the locked Parliament.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Fiame said that day was charged with emotion.

“It could have gone pear-shaped, but we were able to keep calm,” she said. “We could have stormed the building and knocked down the doors, like in Washington, D.C. But we just sat and sang a few hymns, sang a prayer.”

Last week, the nation’s top court ruled the unusual swearing-in ceremony that day had been constitutional, and Tuilaepa finally conceded.