Tuilaepa brushes off Deputy criticism
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi has defended his decision not to appoint a permanent Deputy Prime Minister.
In response to claims that it is unconstitutional to not have the role filled by another, Tuilaepa said the appointment of the Deputy Prime Minister is made at his discretion. He said people who are raising questions on the issue do not understand how things work.
Former Deputy Prime Minister and M.P. for Lotofaga, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, vacated the position when she resigned from her ministerial duties and the party of Government last month.
Since then, Tuilaepa has not appointed an official deputy, much to the dismay of some of his critics.
“I have already talked about the position," Tuilaepa told Radio 2AP.
"It is being done as per my discretion for the meantime and once I’m not available then I will appoint [someone]. I had publicised this before and matters like not many people understand it.
“I made the decision just like how it was done previously and it is no difference from the position of the Chief Justice. When he is absent then someone is appointed when it's vacant.”
During a special sitting of the Judiciary this week, the Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u, was welcomed and introduced as the Deputy Prime Minister.
Two weeks ago, the Minister of Women, Community and Social Development, Tuitama Dr. Leao Tuitama, was appointed the Acting Prime Minister during a government delegation inspection in Savai’i.
Under the Constitution, Article 32 (b.a) states the Head of State shall, acting on the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint one of the Ministers appointed under sub-clause (b) to be Deputy Prime Minister.
According to a former District Court Judge, Lefau Harry Schuster the Prime Minister’s decision not to appoint a Deputy P.M. shows the Government’s failure to “follow the letter of the law and Constitution”.
“In my view, the importance of the position is that it’s enshrined in the Constitution to guarantee that there is no vacancy and gap in the top leadership that is the deputy P.M.,” he said.
“There is a vacuum to appoint the Deputy P.M. so that if anything happens to the Prime Minister they take over.
“They proposed the law that is now in the Constitution and everyone should follow the rule of law, in this case, is the appointment of the deputy [P.M.] in the Constitution.”
A former M.P. Lefau added that had the position been made under a statutory law then the appointment would be made on the discretion of the Prime Minister.
“But what they did is they made a clause for the Deputy Prime Minister’s appointment in the Constitution and have clearly gone and cut that path to make it more clear,” he said.
“Now this situation has arisen where they should make the appointment but they are not.
“What makes it worse is they were the ones that made the amendment into law and everyone should follow it.”
The M.P. for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai also criticised the decision from Tuilaepa to keep the position vacant.
He said while the Prime Minister is the leader of the Government in power, it does not mean what he wants will overrule the Constitution.
Furthermore, he claims that it appears that the Prime Minister feels he is superior to the rule of law.
“This is our Constitution and everyone including the Executive and himself has to obey it.”