“If anything, (Oscar) is convicted for being a qualified profession because he is my son” – P.M. Tuilaepa

Poor Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi. He cannot win this one.

As if being an easy target for criticisms for his administration is not enough, his Government’s newest appointment, that of the Chief Executive Officer role of the Ministry of Finance, will only make things even more complicated. 

We are referring to the appointment of Oscar Thomas Malielegaoi as the new Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Finance, replacing Tupa’imatuna Iulai Lavea. 

Having spent quite considerable amount of time in the role, Tupa’i is spending his last week in office before Mr. Malielegaoi takes over at the beginning of the new year.

It’s an exciting time for a couple of reasons. It will be without a doubt an exciting time for Mr. Malielegaoi who brings youth and energy to the role. It’s also a new challenge for the new C.E.O. who would no doubt be keen to prove he is worthy of the role.

He arrives highly credentialed with his most recent post being a Director’s Advisor at the Asian Development Bank. Prior to that, he had served the Ministry of Finance for many years with his latest role being Deputy Director for the Ministry of Finance and Assistant Public Trustee. So there is no question that Mr. Malielegaoi is well qualified for the position – and if the Panel’s recommendation was followed – he is unquestionably the best man for the job. 

But here is the issue, regardless of his credentials, the mere fact he is the son of the Prime Minister will always attract negative comments – especially on social media, where he would have witnessed a rise in vile and extremely unpleasant comments against Tuilaepa’s administration and his family. 

In other words, Mr. Malielegaoi will always be victimised merely by blood and association to the Prime Minister.

Tuilaepa knows what this feels like already. 

It started many years ago when his son in law, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, was appointed Controller and Auditor General. Most of us can recall what was said then and what is still being said today. Suffice to say, Fuimaono has arguably become one of the best public servants at his job. Over the years, a lot of his work and that of the Audit Office has uncovered corruption, collusion and the mismanagement that is ever so rampant within the Government.

Of course there will always be doubters, people who continue to question his eligibility, suitability and credentials for the role given his connections to the man who has been the Prime Minister of this nation for 20 years.

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Mr. Malielegaoi will have to deal with the same issue. For him – and all of Tuilaepa’s children in that respect – it’s part of the package. They are guilty by association – or blood – so to speak. 

Two days ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was confronted about the appointment and his response, we thought, was quite true. He said the “burden of proof” is for Mr.  Malielegaoi to perform.

“Should he fail to deliver or under any circumstance violate his contractual obligations to government, I will be the first to let him go,” he said.

A statement issued by the Government’s Press Secretariat also explained how the decision was made. 

 “The truth of the matter is he was deemed qualified by the selection panel, after satisfying the two essential ingredients for C.E.O appointments which are your academic qualifications and experience.

 “There was no sinister plot surrounding the appointment as the position was publicly advertised for any person to apply.”

 “It’s unfortunate that he was the only applicant but the same can be said for other C.E.O. and senior government posts which only attracted one applicant.”

Tuilaepa said insinuations that he allegedly intervened to influence the outcome of the selection process is an “outrageous lie.”

 “Even when it was tabled before Cabinet, I distant myself due to the glaring conflict of interest,” he said.

 “The policy is to consider the merits and if he or she is qualified—then why should a son or daughter who has earned it—be penalise because his or her mother or father holds a high ranking post.”

Responding to social media critics, Tuilaepa said: “I know their target is my administration and my leadership in their ongoing campaign to woo the voters. If anything, (Oscar) is convicted for being a qualified profession because he is my son.”

Well Prime Minister Tuilaepa has a point. But we repeat, this is an argument he cannot win. As long as he is the Prime Minister, regardless of how well qualified people close to him  - let alone his children – they will always come under scrutiny from people who see an opportunity to fire another shot at at the Prime Minister. 

Have a great Sunday Samoa, God bless!

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