Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has scoffed at claims that he alone made the decision to change the Head of State.
He has also dismissed calls for the appointment to be put to a public vote, saying Members of Parliament were chosen by voters and it is their prerogative to make decisions that benefit the country.
“There are people going around today saying that the H.R.P.P changed the law so they can bring in anyone they want,” Tuilaepa told the media.
“My response is that is the way Parliamentary democracy works. The party that has the numbers is the party that dictates the changes they want – including the appointment of the Head of State.
“So we are merely following Constitutional policies. This is also how the Governor Generals of New Zealand and Australia are appointed, whoever the governments want is the person they will have.”
In terms of what is happening in Samoa, Tuilaepa asked: “Who can oppose the government if they have the majority in terms of numbers?”
Tuilaepa was responding during his weekly media programme ahead of last night’s ceremony where the nation welcomed the new Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II.
He takes over from His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi who has held the post for the past 10 years.
According to Tuilaepa, the changing of the guard is in accordance with the Constitution. He added that it was about time the Tui Aana gets an opportunity given that Malietoa and Tui Atua are the only people to have held the position since Independence in 1962.
And already, the P.M. revealed that Parliament is thinking of legislating for a Head of State to only serve two terms.
“That way the appointment avoids controversy and prepares the position holder for his two terms,” said the Prime Minister.
“That way also, we are not criticised and we will be spared from hearing disappointed statements about the decision. You see eventhough the Constitution is quite clear as it stands today, there will always be disappointment on the part of the person who keeps wanting the role which is what’s happening.
“The problem is Parliament has a duty to carry out and that is to change these honorary positions.”
Tuilaepa also rubbished claims he singlehandedly runs the H.R.P.P.
“I’ve often heard statements such as the P.M. holds the key to opening and closing the door. I’ve heard people say that whatever the P.M. say that’s what goes.
“Such an opinion is harboured by people whom if they are given the chance to administer the government, they will run it like an army. They will rule it like a military; they will not listen to any advice from Members of Parliament or Cabinet.”
Tuilaepa said he is different.
“I listen to what the party says, which is the democratic system. It dictates that for every leader, they must listen to the party.”
Going back to the appointment of His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano, the P.M. confirmed that the vote was done the “Samoan way.”
“There was an opportunity (for members of the party) to express opinions and the person whom most members gravitated towards was the one chosen.
“What I mean is that no one person has the power when it comes to things like this. This is why this party remains united as it has been from the start. As a leader, I always seek the opinion of my party before any decision is mad.”
Lastly he said changes such as this are critical so that “members of public understand that these changes are not made by one person.
“They are done by the party.”