2 Guam senators back first female prime minister of Samoa

Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, the first female prime minister of Samoa.

Two Guam senators have expressed support for the first female prime minister of Samoa and have urged the federal government to also recognize her election.

Chairwoman Tina Rose Muña Barnes and Vice Chairwoman Mary Camacho Torres of the 36th Guam Legislature’s Committee on Regional Affairs penned a letter to the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Antony 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 urging them to reaffirm our nation’s commitment to the democratic process by recognizing the Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as the newly elected Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa.

Muña Barnes and Torres join their regional partners, the Honorable David Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Honorable Suragel Whipps Jr., President of the Republic of Palau in recognizing Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as the legitimately elected Prime Minister of Samoa.

On April 9, 2021, Samoa held its election, which saw the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) winning a majority vote. The FAST Party named Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as Prime Minister, making her the first female prime minister in Samoa.

However, rather than taking the necessary steps to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has refused to step down and acknowledge the election results as legitimate.

On May 22, 2021, Samoa’s Head of State, Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II, canceled Monday’s parliament sitting, the day the new prime minister was to be sworn in, without explanation. On Sunday, the Supreme Court of Samoa overruled the head of state’s decision; however, no action has been taken to allow for the transfer of power. Instead, in a violation of democratic processes, Mata’afa and her supporters were locked out of Parliament.

In their letter, Muña Barnes and Torres stated “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.” They added “as women leaders of the Pacific, we are all too familiar with the stigma and challenges of a career in public service. 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.”

(Vice Speaker Tina Muna Barnes Release)