The Supreme Court has granted leave for a group of opposition MPs to seek a judicial review of the decision of the Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua, to hold the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister without debate.
However, Judge N.J.Cooper, presiding, refused leave for the applicants to seek judicial review of Lord Fakafanua’s decision to allow unelected members to vote on the motion to proceed to the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister without debate.
The application was supported by seven affidavits, each sworn on September 11, by MPs Dr. ‘Uhila-Moe-Langi-Fasi, Mateni Tapueluelu, Dr. Aisake Eke, Paula Piukala, Kapeli Lanumata, Dr Taniela Likuohihifo Fusimalohi and Mo’ale Finau.
The applicants were all signatories to a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni, submitted to Parliament on August 22 this year by Dr. Aisake Eke.
According to Hon. Tapueluelu’s affidavit the setting down of the vote of no confidence was in the prescribed form and was acknowledged to be so by the Chief Clerk to the Legislative Assembly.
The Chief Clerk to the Legislative Assembly issued a press release stating: “Notification will be issued of the date when the motion will be tabled with the Legislative Assembly; where it will be read out and debated before it is put to a vote.”
The vote of no confidence took place on September 6, 2023 without a debate. There had first been a vote held by the Speaker to proceed with the vote of no confidence without debate.
The applicants submitted that a debate was mandatory under the Rules governing the operation of Parliament and that the members had been promised 10 minutes each to debate the motion by the Speaker.
Not following the Rules in regard to the need for a debate was a breach of the Rules and clause 62 (2) of the Constitution.
The applicants argued that the vote to not debate the vote of no confidence breached the Constitution because two unelected members of the government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance, were allowed to vote.
Judge Cooper said that where there had been a breach of the Constitution the Court was empowered to review and make such orders as was required pursuant to Order 39, Rule 1 of the Supreme Court Rules.
The applicants were therefore granted leave to apply for judicial review of the lawfulness of the Defendant’s actions in not debating the vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister.