The two words that sum up P.M. Tuilaepa’s Cabinet reshuffle

Congratulations and commiserations. The two words immediately spring to mind looking at Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet line up nearing the end of the current Parliamentary term.

It’s not unusual for ruling governments to reshuffle portfolios during a Parliamentary term and in Samoa, this is not the first time Cabinet responsibilities have been moved around.

But it is rarely done and that is because leaders like Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi only do it when they feel it is absolutely necessary.

The decision to swap Cabinet Ministers for the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women, Community and Social Development is an interesting move but it is hardly surprising.

That said; it comes with a strong message from Prime Minister Tuilaepa to everyone in his Cabinet. Performance matters.

The outgoing Minister of Health, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, appears to have become the casualty of a comedy of errors at a Ministry which he has had a couple of Parliamentary terms to try and sort out.

Indeed, the mess at the Ministry of Health, which has been well detailed on the pages of this newspaper, remains largely unresolved. Despite the Government’s official spin on the recent merge between the National Health Services and the Ministry of Health that it was well and good, trouble continues to bubble beneath the surface so that it’s impossible to ignore the idea perhaps the Ministry needs someone new at the helm.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa knows this. And he would have felt that he has given Tuitama enough time and opportunities to fix it. He couldn’t.

The truth is that there is so much more going on internally at the Ministry of Health – good, bad and ugly - members of the public do not know. Judging from what was exposed publically during the Commission of Inquiry, it is more ugly than good.

The resignation by the Director for the Intensive Care Unit (I.C.U.), Dr. Dina Tuitama, would not have done the Minister a favour, especially given the fact she is his daughter. And that’s not all. Reports swirling around that Dr. Dina Tuitama is not the only top health official to have walked away from the Ministry would have definitely contributed to the decision.

But even more interesting is Tuilaepa’s choice of replacement. His decision to bring in someone with little or no previous experience in the health sector as the new Minister will certainly raise eyebrows among professionals in the sector.

Maybe the Prime Minister’s decision is to try and resolve the ongoing clash between doctors and nurses? Who knows? Whatever the case might be, the new Minister Faimalotoa Kika Stowers has got her work cut out. It has everything to do with sorting out multiple challenges in terms of the delivery of public health services and dealing with internal frictions and staffing issues. Faimalo will need all her calming influence if she is going to make a difference.

That said, for Tuitama, those who follow politics in Samoa closely would know what it means when one is allocated the Ministry of Women portfolio. Which is sad and contradictory given the critical role the Ministry plays in the development of women, children, villages and different communities. Suffice to say, all the other changes in Cabinet portfolios appear unnecessary.

Apart from the Police Commissioner Fuiava Egon Keil who gets the last laugh about the decision to bring the Traffic Division of the Land Transport Authority (L.T.A.) under his watch, the other portfolio changes appear quite irrelevant.

They appear to have only been made to mask the change Prime Minister Tuilaepa really felt necessary to be implemented at the Ministry of Health.

In the official statement issued by Cabinet, the tone couldn’t have been more revealing – even it was unintentional on their part.

Listen to it one more time: “The Prime Minister noted that while Cabinet Ministers are expected to shoulder the weight of their portfolio responsibilities, it is very crucial that careful consideration must be given to the depth and intensity of each Minister’s workload.

“The government is in the second spell of this parliamentary term and the Prime Minister stated that it is timely for these changes to be made.”

Well there you have it folks. It’s a done deal. And those two words spring to mind once again; congratulations and commiserations.

Have a wonderful Friday Samoa, God bless!

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