The leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P),Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has a new deputy. She is Lotofaga’s Member of Parliament and long-serving Cabinet Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
Fiame edged out another veteran H.R.P.P member, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, during a caucus vote at the government building yesterday when the H.R.P.P met for the first time after Friday’s General Elections. A source told the Sunday Samoan that the vote was 21-19 in favour of Fiame.
It could not be ascertained whether the appointment means Fiame will also become the Deputy Prime Minister.
What was confirmed is that at the meeting, the Party also elected three Whips.
They are Peseta Vaifou Tevaga and two new comers, Alaiasa Sepulona Moananu and Afamasaga Rico Tupai.
During an interview with the Sunday Samoan, Fiame would not be drawn into the specifics of the vote but she said she was honoured by the party’s faith in her.
“I’m happy not only for my constituency but for the sake of gender equality in Samoa,” said Fiame.
“It sets a pathway for us and for other females to recognise their potential.”
Fiame believes women need to participate and engage in the political dialogue and developments to give themselves a chance to be appointed to such high offices.
She said women could only be part of the political leadership if they are proactive, participate and remain engaged.
“Starting from when I was a young matai, I lived in the village for seven years before I ran for office,” she said. “From there, you begin to do the work.Being a Member of Parliament becomes your career and in the process you gain general knowledge and understanding.
“What an M.P must remember is that you came (into parliament) alone but you work collaboratively with others that were elected by the country…it’s not based on one person’s idea, it’s a collective effort.”
According to Fiame, trust is a crucial element for anyone who aspires to such a position.
“Although the perception in politics is that it’s a dangerous game, I think if people are focused on what they should focus on, programmes that will benefit the majority in improving the quality of life and not just what the M.P wants.”
Asked if the appointment would mean she would automatically become the Deputy Prime Minister, she said there are technicalities in terms of the position.
“This appointment (D.P.M) is a party appointment,” she explained.
“But the Prime Minister has indicated he would of course take into consideration the vote of the party.
“I think it’s an issue that needs to be aligned.Just as our leader is the Prime minister, I think it’s the most sensible thing that the Deputy Leader also becomes the Deputy Prime Minister.
“But those are the technical aspects that need to be aligned…”
She added it is an issue that should be addressed in the upcoming Parliament sessions.
At the meeting, the party also unanimously agreed for Tuilaepa to continue as leader.
With the H.R.P.P. returning to Parliament in Friday’s General Elections with such force, Fiame said “we would have to question our sanity if we change our leader.
“So I think the party also is rewarding the Prime Minister for his leadership. There are some areas he’s not very popular (in) but he’s the leader and we’ve been able to put down a programme from our last manifesto and what we would do.”
Fiame said although they have a plan, changes are possible where necessary.
She made reference to new members coming in who might have different ideas.
“You can never get away from the basics like the electricity, water and roads,” she said.
“But more of the social elements aspects of law and justice, those kind of things that sometimes in a small economy like ours doesn’t necessarily get the prioritisation.
“But it all depends on what the members say, what they want.”
Fiame, 58,first entered Parliament as the M.P for Lotofaga in 1985.
She has been a Cabinet Minister since 1991 and has held multiple Cabinet portfolios.
In the last Parliamentary sitting, she was the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration.