The new president, who promised to break Samoa’s deal with China, was locked out of parliament by pro-Beijing opposition


Elected Prime Minister of Samoa, Fiame Naomi Mata'Afa speaks to reporters outside the Parliament building in Apia, Samoa-Anetone Sagaga / Samoa Observer / AP

Samoa’s Prime Minister Naomi Mataafah tells reporters outside the Parliament building in Apia, Samoa-Anetone Sagaga / Samoa Observer / AP

Samoa, a small Pacific island, was in jeopardy this week after a new president pledged to break a $ 100 million port deal with China was locked out of parliament in a fierce debate over election results.

Opposition leader Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Samoa’s first female prime minister to win a knife-like victory in an April poll, could undermine China’s growing influence in strategic regions if allowed. There is sex.

However, the future of her government is at stake as she was forced to choose an improvised swearing ceremony in her tent after the incumbent Prime Minister Tuiraepa Seirere Marielegaoi refused to transfer power.

The two leaders have accused each other of planning a bloodless coup. Mr. Tuiraepa is the second longest-term prime minister in the world, and his enemies have been guilty of “treason” for proceeding with the ceremony. I blame you for doing it.

On Thursday, Attorney General of Samoa attempts to declare Ms. Fiamm’s Faatuatua il Atua Samoa a Tashi (FAST) party’s ad hoc oath “unconstitutional and illegal” at a Supreme Court hearing. Said.

The outcome of the controversy will be closely monitored by Beijing and Washington and their regional allies New Zealand and Australia.

Samoa Tuiraepa-Rupesorai-Sairere-Marieregaoi Prime Minister, Beijing, China Great Hall of the People in Xi Jinping Jintao and talks - Lintao Zhang / REUTERS

Tuiraepa-Rupesorai-Sairere-Marieregaoi Prime Minister of China Xi Jinping Jintao Samoa is meeting in Beijing of the People’s Great Hall – Lintao Zhang / REUTERS

Ms. Fiamme said she intends to maintain good relations with China, but plans to shelve the development of the controversial Beijing-backed port of Weius, which will lead to further debt to China. The port project caused disagreements during the campaign.

“Samoa is a small country. Our ports and airports meet our needs,” Fiam told Reuters by phone from Apia, the capital of Samoa.

“If there is a more pressing project that the government needs to prioritize, it is hard to imagine that the scale proposed under this particular project will be needed.”

Former Director of National Intelligence of the United States Pacific Fleet, James Funnel, told The Telegraph that the proposed port is one of several regional projects that could convert commercial to military use, and China’s strategic ambitions across the Pacific. Sounded a warning about.

“Before China talked about the Belt and Road Initiative, we were talking about China’s” string of pearls “strategy. They traded, threw themselves into these small nations, and were in debt, “he said.

“From an Australian and New Zealand security perspective, are you really pleased that there are three or four Chinese port facilities that allow Chinese naval vessels to enter and exit?”

Monday, May 24, 2021, Samoa's Apia-Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Fiame Naomi MataĆ¢? Elected Prime Minister in Apia, Samoa, Monday, May 24, 2021?

Jose Sousa Santos, a Pacific Policy Researcher at the Australian Pacific Security University, said China’s interest in ports was “strategic opportunism.”

“Marine connectivity is essential in the Pacific Ocean, and China has been involved in the form of whac-a-mole around the region, but so far it has been less successful. The development of the Vius port was more advanced than others. “He said.

Samoa hesitated to enter the port amid “increasing concerns about China’s economic and political influence in the Pacific security sector,” he added.

However, Dr. Anna Powles, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s Center for Defense and Security Research in New Zealand, said that while the Fiame administration could strengthen scrutiny of China’s lending, its ties to China will change radically. Said that would never happen.

“Samoa has a lot of debt to China and borrows just under 20% of GDP, so it is doubtful that a big change will occur. Economic relations are fairly deeply rooted and political relations are changing. It’s unlikely. Samoa has a closer bilateral relationship with China than many Pacific countries, “she said.

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