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Court of Appeal dismisses second legal action against Parliamentary voting procedures

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The Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal against a ruling over a motion for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku.

Hon Hu’akavameiliku

This is the second time the Court of Appeal has ruled on a legal action against the actions of the Legislative assembly.

On September MPs Dr. ‘Uhila-moe-iangi Fasi, Mateni Tapueluelu, , Dr. ‘Aisake Valu Eke, Paula Piveni Piukala, Kapeli Lanumata, Dr. Taniela l. Fusimalohi and  Mo’ale Finau filed an application to bring judicial review proceedings against the decision of the Lord Speaker of Parliament, Lord Fakafanua and the Legislative assembly.

This followed the tabling of a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister on September 5, 2023. The plaintiffs argued that:

They were denied their right to debate the motion on a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, which amounted to a breach of Clause 62 (2) of the Constitution.

The defendants broke their oaths to uphold the Constitution they were obliged to take pursuant to Clause 83 of the Constitution; and

That upon the vote on the Motion not to debate the vote of no confidence, unelected members voted, contrary to Clause 51 (6).

Judge Cooper dismissed their application for a judicial review on January 8, 2024. Judge Cooper accepted a submission that the Court had no jurisdiction to hear the application for judicial review by virtue of the doctrine of Parliamentary privilege unless there had been a clear breach of the constitution.

The appellants argued that in allowing the motion for the vote without debate on the motion the rules of procedure of the Assembly were not followed and, in consequence, there was a breach of clause 62 of the Constitution.

The MPs also argued that:

There was a breach of Clause 83 of the Constitution in relation to the obligation by Members to uphold the Constitution.

The Court failed to mention Clause 90 of the Constitution.

There was a conflict of interest by Hon. Hu’akavameiliku in introducing the verbal motion in the House seeking an immediate vote.

There should be a full hearing to contest the evidence.

The Court of Appeal found that there had been no breach of Clause 62 and that there was nothing to support any failure by Members of the Assembly to fulfil their oath. The court was satisfied that no purpose would be served by requiring a full hearing with further evidence.

None of the grounds of appeal were established and the appeal was therefore dismissed.

For more information

Supreme Court rejects Parliamentarians’ call for judicial review, but says House still has internal procedure to resolve dispute