Mind games down at the Petesa camp

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

We can hazard a guess. Something is definitely ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’ when a person who has been elected the Deputy Leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P) is made to sweat through some anxious days waiting to be told if she is the Deputy Prime Minister.

This is certainly a first for Samoa, if memory serves us correct. Unlike previous years where the Deputy Leader of the H.R.P.P automatically became the Deputy Prime Minister, this is different.  But the situation goes to show just how sensitive things are down at the H.R.P.P camp. 

Indeed they might have breezed through virtually untouched last Friday as a party during the election but now Prime Minister Tuilaepa must tread carefully in making his party appointments.

Those in the know will tell you that he has already lost the first round last Saturday when Lotofaga’s Member of Parliament and long-serving Cabinet Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was elected Deputy leader of the Party.

We can tell you that Fiame was among four candidates in the running for the position. Among them was the former deputy leader and caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo. The other two were Lautafi Fio Purcell and Faumuina Tiatia Liuga. 

Lautafi and Fonotoe lost out in the first rounds so that the contest came down to Fiame and Faumuina. In the end, the final vote was 21-19 in favour of Fiame.

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.

But then should that faith not extend to making her the Deputy Prime Minister?

We don’t understand why not. Judging from the vote, she obviously has the support of the H.R.P.P caucus. More importantly, she is qualified and well suited for the role given her many years in Parliament and as a servant of Samoa. Why then is Prime Minister Tuilaepa playing mind games instead of just naming her as the Deputy Prime Minister like he did with Fonotoe the last time?

Interestingly, when the Sunday Samoan asked Fiame if the H.R.P.P 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.”

We couldn’t agree more, ladies and gentlemen. 

Besides, looking back at the past few years with Fonotoe and Misa Telefoni, that is how it has always been. So what has changed?

Two days ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa set to the record straight to say that Fonotoe remains the Deputy Prime Minister.

Tuilaepa made the correction following numerous media reports in Samoa and overseas referring to Fiame as the Deputy Prime Minister.

The leader of the H.R.P.P said the Deputy Prime Minister would only be announced when Parliament gathers for its first session next week.

“I still am the Caretaker Prime Minister and Fonotoe is the Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister,” he said.

“No appointment can be made official until the (election) recount is done.

“Even the appointment of the Prime Minister has not been made. The appointments are only finalised when they take their oaths.”

Okay then Mr. Prime Minister. 

Let’s wait until next week.

In the meantime, we wonder if he would  have said the same thing if Faumuina had won that caucus vote last Saturday? Interesting, isn’t it?

Stay tuned!

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