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P.M. reveals Deputy Prime Minister decision

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has revealed he will not be appointing a Deputy Prime Minister, saying he wants to put "nosy" people to rest, from speculating on who will replace Fiame Naomi Mata'afa.

He also revealed that he would take on both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister role, until after the General Election next year.

He said there are only a few remaining months in this Parliamentary sitting and with the coronavirus pandemic impact, he said the appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister is not urgent.

Tuilaepa confirmed this during his weekly programme with TV3 on Wednesday evening.

The position became vacant after former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame, resigned from Cabinet and the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) last Friday. Since then, there has been mounting public interest on her replacement.

But Tuilaepa said he wanted to end these speculations.

"Right now during the COVID-19, there isn't much work to do at the moment, even with overseas affairs. So we have decided to leave it at is, the General Election is not far away, it is only months away," he said.

"So I have decided to take on the Ministry [of Natural Resources and Environment] because when Fiame is overseas, I am the one who oversees it. And whichever Minister travels, I always take on the role, that is my founding role."

"That role is important to me. Once a Minister travels, I take over. It is important to me because it is how I understand and see whether or not the Minister is doing the work."

Tuilaepa said it is better this way rather than adding an extra role on someone else when all Members of Parliament are already in preparation for the General Election.

His decision has been endorsed by the party, Tuilaepa added.

"I have decided to take on the role. There will not be an appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister. My decision, which has been supported by the party to leave it. The matter is complicated," he said.

"They said to leave the appointment of a Deputy Prime Minister up to me and I have decided to just pick someone when I travel to Savaii or Aleipata leaving my chair open; or Tutuila (American Samoa). I will then choose a Deputy Prime Minister and a deputy leader [of H.R.P.P.]"

Tuilaepa said this exercise will be helpful in getting the Members of Parliament accustomed to becoming a deputy leader of the ruling party and experience the role of a Deputy Prime Minister.

He said there is of great importance to shuffling the vacant seat, for now, to give the temporary deputies a taste of the "heavy" duties a Prime Minister is tasked with.

"This will also make things easier," Tuilaepa continues.

The Prime Minister also rejected comments that something is driving members of the Human Rights Political Party (H.R.P.P.) away from the ruling party. Three Members of Parliament, Faumuina Wayne Fong, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Schmidt and Fiame have left the party in the space of three months.

Tuilaepa said apart from Faumuina, Fiame and La'auli left H.R.P.P. because they had already planned to do so. He said he knew Fiame would be resigning more than three months prior.

"We always knew but we had thought that it may be just a phase, that she will reconsider her decision [...] but there was no change," said Tuilaepa. "Even when we had met on the day she resigned, I thought it was just us, but I did not know she had already aired her exit on E.T. and the Samoa Observer before we met."

In June, Former Speaker and senior Member of Parliament for Gagaifomauga no3, La'aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao resigned from H.R.P.P. in June following his exit from Parliament.

Faumuina was sacked in July for his lack of support for the party's goals. And Former Deputy Prime Minister Fiame tendered her resignation less than a week ago.

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