Tuilaepa’s reappointment a statement from the H.R.P.P.
The decision by the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) to reappoint Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malieleagaoi, to lead them nine months away from the General Election is quite a statement.
Not only does it immediately give us an idea of what to expect in the coming months, if anybody doubted the unity and solidarity within the party ranks given some recent developments, the unanimous decision in the reappointment of Tuilaepa speaks volume about the trust they have in his leadership and ability to steady the ship.
Indeed, from what we’ve been told, 43 members of the party attended the caucus meeting this week with the exception of two members - including Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who was reportedly ill. Still, the party also decided to keep Fiame as the deputy leader up until April next year. And with that decision, the H.R.P.P. has clearly drawn the battle lines and declared their intentions.
Speaking about the caucus meeting, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupa’i, delivered a message the H.R.P.P. wants the world to know.
“We are very confident in his leadership of the H.R.P.P. party and consequently the Government,” Afamasaga said. “We have been a progressive people and as a country, we are punching way above our weight regionally as well as internationally because of Tuilaepa's leadership.
“As a world renowned and globally recognised leader, we shall continue to take advantage of Tuilaepa's leadership for the benefit of our people in whatever way we can."
We don’t disagree with Afamasaga. While there have been some calls from some quarters for a change of leadership – and we do find it odd that there is a leadership vote ahead of the election - it would be foolish for the H.R.P.P. not to take advantage of Tuilaepa’s experience.
At 75-years-of-age and having been the Prime Minister for 21 years, Tuilaepa is a man who has seen and done it all. He was mentored and anointed by the late Tofilau Eti Alesana and it looks like he will continue as Prime Minister for as long as he possibly can. Tuilaepa is a man who certainly knows what he wants and gets it too.
Speaking after the caucus vote, Tuilaepa admitted that he was ready to “roll the mat” if the party had voted for someone else. They didn’t.
"Even though my five years has not ended, I felt the need to go through this meeting immediately and the [party] re-elected me,” he said. “This is the 19th time I have been elected to lead the party.”
That indeed is a milestone but Tuilaepa also knows the road ahead is going to be challenging. He already has his job cut out and on the top of his list is dealing with the six political parties the H.R.P.P. will be up against.
Of all of them, Tuilaepa no doubt has his mind on his former H.R.P.P. colleague, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt, who is already working to set up a new party. And Tuilaepa couldn’t help himself but immediately launched a verbal barrage on La’auli, challenging him to come forward with his plan and reveal who is in his planned party.
"It's a bit embarrassing they are announcing their party yet there are no members," Tuilaepa said. “I challenge them to announce their members, if you have guts; name your members but if you don’t have the guts to announce the members, you may as well stop now."
Contacted for a comment, La'auli said the Prime Minister’s use of a very derogatory word in the Samoan language to describe guts was unnecessary and he should withdraw his comments.
La’auli also had a message for the Prime Minister.
"He has no right to tell our party when to announce our party officially,” Laauli responded. "We will announce (our candidates) when it is the right time, and this is after we consult members of the public and the voters.”
Well we agree with La’auli on this one. Tuilaepa might be the leader of the H.R.P.P. but he cannot tell other political parties what to do.
What the other political parties should take note of, and perhaps emulate, is the clear direction and intentions signaled by the H.R.P.P. in terms of leadership and policy platforms. Nine months is not a long time to go and it will sneak up on everyone like a thief in the night. Tuilaepa, being the experienced campaigner and perhaps the cleverest politician Samoa has seen, knows this. He has already started firing pot shots and he will not let up, that much you can count on.
Away from the H.R.P.P., we’ve been told that other political parties have started talking about the possibility of joining forces to give themselves a better chance. The leader of Tautua Samoa, Afualo Dr. Wood Salele, confirmed the discussions but he would not go into details.
“It’s a matter of mathematics," he said. "If they [political parties] secure the other number put together with ours and get 25 members that is the goal."
He pointed out what is being considered is for the parties to negotiate which candidate from each party has the better chance in winning and then they need to compromise for a better outcome.
“If we go together and have a common understanding in terms of candidates then at the end of the day when we reach that number there is a possibility of a coalition.”
Well there you have it. The General Election fever has truly arrived and for the next few months, we are in for a very interesting time.
The story within the stories will be just as interesting as the overall outcome and the big picture. Look at the front-page story yesterday about those two brothers going head-to-head at Palauli III. While one brother claims that the village has given him the mandate to run, his older brother says he’s disappointed and he finds it embarrassing. We can understand why.
But then who cares what we think anyways? This is politics at its most intriguing and brutal where anything and everything goes. Strap yourselves in and stay tuned, we are in for some very interesting times ahead.