Head of State should be a matter for a public vote

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Hon. Olo Fiti Va'ai.

MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: Hon. Olo Fiti Va'ai. (Photo: File)

Member of Parliament, Olo Fiti Va’ai, said that choosing the Head of State should be a matter for a public vote.

He told the Samoa Observer during an interview yesterday, that the matter should not be the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Protection Party alone.

He also said that every adult in Samoa should be given the right to vote in the choosing of the country's Head of State.

“We have lost the sacredness of the selection of our Head of State. The decision just lies with the winning party, but not with Parliament. 

However Parliament is where these delicate issues should be discussed,” said Olo Fiti Va’ai. 

He told Samoa Observer the vibe and sensitivity around the selection of the Head of State was something that should have been considered by the Human Rights Political Party from the beginning. 

“If not the Parliament, then maybe it’s time to put the position up for election by the Samoan people as to whom they want to be the next Head of State,” he said. 

In 2015, there was an amendment approved by Parliament that the Head of State would be appointed by the Legislative Assembly acting on the recommendation of the winning Parliament party. 

“Within 60 days before the expiry of the term of appointment of the Head of State or as soon as practicable when there is a vacancy in the office of Head of State. The party or parties in Government shall submit to the Speaker, a written Notice recommending the name of only one person to be appointed as Head of State.” 

The problem was, when this amendment was approved by Parliament, three members were missing. 

“And so three constituencies have not had a say in this amendment, including me,” said Olo Fiti. 

The M.P. has always been vocal about certain issues when it comes to the Government however he was supportive of their consideration to amend the Constitution to require the Head of State to serve only two terms. 

“I agree with that. This should have been done a long time ago." 

“This will allow the Council of Deputies members to maybe have a chance to serve as Head of State. They can serve ten years and then allow another to serve." 

“This is a far better way to conduct these sensitive issues rather than to have these abrupt changes overnight." 

“I feel for the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi." 

Olo Fiti was not present, during the time Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi announced the new Head of State and his presence he said, was superfluous. 

“It was useless for me to attend, knowing that the selection would not be discussed in Parliament." 

“This is the Head of State, Samoa’s most sacred and respected leader, yet it’s being chosen by only the winning Party." 

“What about our constituencies? I mean all of the H.R.P.P. constituencies have had their voices heard in the selection, but what about my constituency?"

“Where do we stand in all of this... this is why I think it’s time for a better change,” said Olo Fiti. 

Last week, the Prime Minister said the sensitivity around the selection of the Head of State had led to discussions on whether the law should be amended to require a limit of two terms or ten years for the Head of State position. 

He spoke about the Human Rights Political Party (H.R.P.P.) caucus last week where they held the election for the new Head of State.  

He noted during the caucus meeting that there were concerns about how Tui Atua’s term had ended abruptly and some had expressed compassion about the situation.  

The Prime Minister noted this prompted discussions for Parliament to look at amending the Constitution to maybe limit the Head of State appointment to two terms or ten years. 

 “It would be more accepting once it’s public knowledge that there are only two terms for the Head of State, rather than the current situation.”  

Concerns were raised about a Tama a Aiga being removed from their position in government.  

However the Prime Minister stated they are Tama a Aiga, they are well respected leaders in our country and nothing and no one can change that.  

“Do not mix the two,” he said.  

According to Tuilaepa, Tama a Aiga is in our tradition and culture while the selection of government leaders is something of the modern world.  

As to the question of whether the former Head of State will be appointed to the Council, Tuilaepa said H.R.P.P. will have to vote whether Samoa’s outgoing Head of State, his Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi will have a seat as a Deputy Council Member.  

“Also it’s up to him [Tui Atua] whether he wants to be a Deputy Council Member." 

 

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