Democracy alive and well: P.M.

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has rebuked the characterisation of Samoa as a "one party state" saying that: “Democracy is alive and well in Samoa.” 

“My Cabinet and all the Human Rights Political Party members know the importance of actions rather than declarations," the Prime Minister said in response to criticisms aired earlier this week in Parliament. 

“Don’t mock the work we have done and [try to minimise] the prominence of the work we do. In turn it diminishes the respect your constituency has for you as they are observing your every action.

“Do not take lightly what you say in Parliament and do not downplay the work done by the Government in your respective constituencies, there are people who say things and there are people that observe and remember what was said.”

Tuilaepa was responding to a characterisation of the political system made by M.P. La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polata'ivao. But the M.P. and member of the party of Government made it clear his comments about the "one party state" were intended solely as a factual statement about the country's electoral choices. 

“It was not said in a murky manner. It was clear and it’s also recorded that I referenced the decision [made by...] the public,” La’auli said.

But Tuilaepa argued that Samoa’s system of Government is unique. 

"The phrase of 'one party state' is not a good thing,” said the Prime Minister. 

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He explained that a nation-state dominated by one party is typically associated with a country run by a dictator, and therefore has negative connotations. But Samoa's situation, he argued, is not only different but unique. 

“Members of the public voted of their own free will and it was their decision that resulted in [the Parliament we have today]," he said. 

“Those that continue to use this phrase [...] it appears that you don’t understand politics in Samoa."

Tuilaepa said following the election, the H.R.P.P. met to appoint a committee to oversee the foundations of democratic procedure within the Parliament. 

A committee was established and it recommended the selection of 13 Cabinet Ministers with remaining M.P.s taking on Associate Minister roles.

But the Prime Minister said the advice was rejected because of concerns about its democratic implications. 

“But there was a concern that this may hinder [checks-and-balances] in Parliament and there was still a need for an opposition to scrutinise the Government; that’s what prompted the move to have an internal opposition made up of those that were not appointed as Associate Ministers; but without [benefits such as] cars and cell phones," he said. 

“This shocked Parliament trainers from Australia [who] commented on the uniqueness of our democratic system; at the same time this adheres to the principles of the United Nations.” 

The Prime Minister said the excessive concentration of power lent itself to abuses, which is why the Government had sought to foster opposition despite the preeminence of the H.R.P.P. 

“That is the core principle that laid the foundation to have an internal opposition in any case of abuse of power,” he said. 

“This is root of the phrase [is] power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely and that is why it’s crucial to have a check and balance system."

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