Samoa Observer

Constitutional checks and balances of power in Samoa’s Parliament thrown overboard

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Constitutional checks and balances of power in Samoa’s Parliament thrown overboard

This constitutional core principle of checks and balances of power to avoid the abuses of power by any one of the three branches of our Government namely Parliament, the Judiciary and the Executive has now been thrown overboard since the FAST Government came into power. 

Power by its very nature corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is the reason why, when power is given to one person, or a group of persons, the natural tendency is to misuse it. 

This is human nature. 

Therefore, to prevent the misuse of power, the solution is to give power to another person or group of persons to provide a counter balancing check.

Simply put, we must use power to check power. 

All democratic states including Samoa have built in checks and balances provisions in their Constitutions to prevent the abuse of power by either the Parliament, the Judiciary or the Executive over the other two.

The end result is corruption in every institution of the State.

Numerous breaches by the three branches against this golden principle of checks and balances to maintain independence have occurred during the 12 months since the change of government.

This is the threat facing our democracy today.

When Samoa is battling against COVID-19 pandemic, its adverse impact on our economy, and our national contributing activities to climate change – the Samoan government should focus on nation building and not waste time on witch hunting, behaving as if FAST was still in opposition.

This was the essence of the harmony agreement signed between the two leaders of HRPP and FAST, which is now used by FAST as the basis of their suspension decision in Parliament.

Experienced CEO’s appointed under good governance principles during the HRPP Administration have been sacked for doing their duties and friends and relatives have been appointed directly. 

And projects are awarded to businesses with political connection despite questionable records.

Parliamentary committees have members who hold Associate Ministers posts, even the Privilege Committee that recommended the suspension of 2 HRPP members was chaired by the Minister of Health

The Prime Minister also attended to give evidence. 

To avoid allegations of conflict of interest, the PM should have been more discreet and send someone else instead or to direct that her Minister of Health, who is chairman, represents her.

It is clear therefore that the setting up of a Parliamentary Committee was only to formalise a pre-determined objective, a simple case of the end justifying the means.

Following the General Elections of 2016 and the HRPP members comprising 47 out of 50 members of the House, the HRPP caucus decided to create a strong opposition by ensuring that Parliamentary Committees do not have members holding Cabinet-related positions.

And lively exchanges became the hallmark of these vital reforms to maintain the independence of Parliament.

The basic principle of donor partner assistance is the observance of good governance. When there is no governance, donor assistance may be withheld for the simple reason that any assistance may be used for corrupt practices.

Leaders of a small country like Samoa with limited resources must always exercise caution, not to overplay its shortsighted politics and lose valuable support of its donor partners, who themselves should not be seen by its taxpayers to support corrupt Governments.

Good politics and good economic policy always go hand in hand.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Leader of HRPP


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