Country’s first (expected) female prime minister . . .
A Samoan Supreme Court ruling on Monday opened the way for former opposition leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa to become the country’s first female prime minister. The court’s decision to allow Mata’afa’s party, the Faith in the One True God (FAST), to form a new government comes after weeks of political deadlock following elections in April. The ruling party continues to contest the results and the court’s decision. Even though she has yet to take office (but could as early as tomorrow), Mata’afa has pledged to halt a China-backed C$120-million port expansion project near Apia, the country’s capital. She says the project is overkill for the island country, would increase Samoa’s already sizeable debt to China, and its 200,000 people face more pressing needs.
Contested port project . . .
The Vaiusu Bay port project was a divisive issue in the April elections and a contributing factor that saw Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi lose his party’s four-decade-long parliamentary majority. During Tuilaepa’s two decades in office, he was seen as a close ally to Beijing and often said that the port’s construction would create needed jobs, even though Samoa’s main port at Apia Bay, just to the east, had recently been upgraded with aid from Japan. Mata’afa said the decision to cancel the deal is based on current Samoan needs and that she would seek to maintain friendly relations with both China and the United States.
Small populations, vast influence . . .
For Canadians, it may seem like Pacific Island countries are a world away. But its 2.3 million people live across an area that accounts for 15 per cent of the Earth’s surface and has become a microcosm of geopolitics and international relations that play out in everything from aid, military alignments, voting at the United Nations, and telecommunications. But not all of Samoa’s international considerations are about China and the United States. It also maintains close ties with Australia and New Zealand, with New Zealand being home to the world’s largest Samoan diaspora. It is likely Mata’afa and her party will closely watch the newly-launched quarantine-free New Zealand/Cook Islands travel bubble and will do what they can to pursue a similar arrangement.
- Radio New Zealand: Samoan diaspora seeks more political say
- Radio New Zealand: Samoa's Head of State will convene parliament to swear in MPs
- Reuters: Samoa to scrap China-backed port project under new leader