Samoa's Prime Minister-elect fears country 'sliding into abyss' of chaos if rule of law isn't valued

The Prime-Ministerial stand-off in Samoa has intensified.

Caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi has accused the country's judges of bias towards his opponents, the FAST Party. But Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa has hit back - saying Tuilaepa appears to be on a "power trip". 

Fiame told Newshub she fears if the rule of law isn't valued, the country will be headed for chaos. 

The FAST Party held a special ceremony on Tuesday to thank supporters and plan their next move, after Monday's swearing-in.

Fiame told Newshub the swearing in ceremony was hugely significant. 

"We've essentially put the stake in the ground in terms of claiming what we believe our mandate is through the vote of the people," she said.

The swearing in ceremony was unconventional as it was held in a marquee on the lawns of Parliament, but it was seen as the only option after FAST Party members and the judiciary were locked out. 

Fiame said she'll be writing to all government departments, including the head of state. 

"They should begin to do a transitioning, so I think that's the next step. But it's not going to be easy." 

It's not easy because on Monday the ceremony was labelled a "coup" and an act of "treason" by Tuilaepa. 

Continuing his attack on Tuesday, he said his opponents had "disgraced our country".

Tuialepa also attacked the integrity of the Judiciary, accusing it of bias, saying the Chief Justice was related to Fiame.

Fiame said it's clear Tuilaepa has no respect for the law. 

"I think I need to remind him that Court decides on the merits of the case. I would have to say either he's been very badly advised or he's taking that usual power trip where his expectation is whatever he says goes," she said. 

Political commentator and Samoan journalist Mata'afa Keni Lesa said he thought the election would be tough, but never expected this. 

"I did not expect it to be this ugly and this nasty," he told Newshub. 

He warned there was the potential for violence but given Samoa is a prayerful nation, he hoped it would not eventuate. 

Mata'afa also criticised Tuilaepa, saying it was ironic he was attacking FAST and accusing it of illegal behaviour when his political party -HRPP - has disregarded multiple Supreme Court rulings. 

"That really reflects badly on his leadership. If you follow the rule of law, Fiame is the Prime Minister of Samoa."

Auckland University Samoan Lecturer Lemoa Henry Sevesi Fesulua'i said Tuialepa still has strong local support and he doesn't think he'll concede.

He said the New Zealand Samoan community is worried. 

"The only thing communities here (in New Zealand) are worried about is that it doesn't escalate to another level and we're all praying for them and hoping they'll see this through in a peaceful manner," he said. 

Fiame said the current crisis has serious risks. 

"If we don't value the rule of law and the foundations that were provided for by our ancestors, we are heading back into chaos," she told Newshub. 

She said while at the moment things appear to be just arguments between politicians, "we are sliding into the abyss". 

The UN said it "stands ready" to assist.

The Secretary-General urged both sides to find solutions "in the best interests of the people and institutions of Samoa".

Meanwhile, Samoa's Attorney General, who was appointed by Tuialepa's HRPP Party, has filed a complaint with the Supreme Court over yesterday's swearing-in ceremony, claiming it was "illegal".