14 Jan 2003

Senate protest upsets opening of American Samoa legislature

4:31 pm on 14 January 2003

The opening ceremonies today for the 28th Legislature in American Samoa were marred by a walk out by the Chief Justice Michael Kruse and a senator.

Mr Kruse walked out before the end of the roll call after Manu'a senator Faamausili Pola's name was not read out, despite being present.

Senator Tuana'itau Tuia followed a few minutes later.

The Senate has refused to recognise Senator Faamausili despite a High Court ruling that he is a senator.

Governor Tauese Sunia did not give a state of the territory address as planned but instead spoke about his sadness and disappointment over the state of affairs in the Senate.

Our correspondent says it's understood that the governor was referring to the Senate's refusal to obey the court order.

Governor Tauese says in the 10 years he has been governor, he has been the victim of court decisions which have embarrassed and ridiculed him yet he has always obeyed them.

Legal experts have said the omission of Senator Faamausili's name in the roll call will likely lead to a contempt of court ruling by the Chief Justice against the other members of the Senate.