The election of the incumbent Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, was not based on party politics.
If that had been the case, the Head of State could have easily been Fiame Naomi Mata’afa instead.
That’s caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s response to claims that he has allowed party politics to ruin sacred appointments such as the Head of State and members of the Council of Deputies.
“If we had made a decision and decided to promote Fiame, by now Fiame would have been there (as the Head of State),” Tuilaepa said.
“If we had chosen as a party, that would have been the end result. But we did not just look at one side.”
The criticisms come from the Tautua Samoa Party members who have argued that seats on the Council of Deputies should be reserved for members of the Tama Aiga families.
But Tuilaepa dismissed the claim, saying it’s weak. He added that such claims are perpetuated by people who lack understanding of the Constitution and the discussion during the Constitutional Convention in 1960.
“That’s why I’m saying that everything they are talking about, they don't understand the intricacies of the Constitution and what was discussed at the Constitutional Convention. They just don't understand.
“Even Le Tagaloa (Pita) who thinks he is smart, he doesn't understand. He is an MP who has been in Parliament for so long but it appears he doesn't understand Parliamentary proceedings.”
According to the Prime Minister, there is nothing in the Constitution or the Constitutional Convention that says such appointments should be confined to members of the Tama Aiga families.
“Look at this,” he said, “this is the discussion during Constitutional Convention in 1960. I must have read this a hundred times so that no one fools me.
“The discussion is quite clear, what was generally agreed upon was incorporated in the Constitution. The discussion was spearheaded by Malietoa, Tupua Tamasese Meaole and Mata’afa Fiame Mulinuu II.”
Tuilaepa said Samoa’s forefathers left the opportunity available to everyone - including the tama aiga title holders – for offices such as Council of Deputies.
“We discussed it during Tofilau’s time if we should amend the Constitution to make it only the tama aiga titles holders who are eligible to the roles.
“But at the end of our discussion, we decided to leave it as it is. We didn't want to be biased and restrict the tama aiga to only Council of Deputies roles. This allowed them the freedom to all these roles – including the Prime Minister.”
In Samoa, Tuilaepa said there is still an unspoken code of respect accorded to the Tama Aiga families as part of our culture.
“But when it comes to these appointments, these are not cultural appointments; they are appointments that originated from outside of Samoa.
“But we still give preferential treatment to the tama aiga families. For instance, the holders of the Council of Deputies and the Head of State up until now have only been members of the tama aiga families.”
The Prime Minister recently moved a motion in Parliament to appoint two senior members of the H.R.P.P to become members of the Council of Deputies. The motion was passed and Le Mamea Ropati and Tuiloma Pule Lameko have since taken their oaths.
“There is a difference between now and before,” Tuilaepa said about the appointment of people to the roles of the Head of State and the Council of Deputies.
“Before, it was like the appointment of the captain of a kilikiti team. One moves the motion, it is seconded and then it is accepted.
“For example, if it’s the case of Pai and Lafai, Pai will say that his boy Seve would like the captaincy but Lafai will say that his boy Suaesi is an option and they both recommend them.”
In Parliament, under this old system, Tuilaepa said it means “we can have up to 49 nominees.
“It’s a stupid thing and the H.R.P.P has stopped it.
“So we have now changed it to internationally approved standards where the government makes the appointment and it is endorsed by Parliament.
“The head of state is appointed by Parliament. That was done with the appointment of the current head of state…”
Has that not eroded the respect for the role and the integrity of the appointment?
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said no.
“What we’ve done is a lot more respectful that a situation where there could be 49 nominations as it was in the past,” he said.
As for claims that the H.R.P.P is playing party politics with the appointments, Tuilaepa said nothing could be further from the truth. He pointed to the fact that His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi has held the Head of State position for the past two terms.
“This would not have been the end result (if we had voted based on who supports the H.R.P.P),” he said. “But even though we are making the appointment as a party, we are still giving preference to the Tama Aiga title holders.”