Deputy P.M. appointment compulsory, says former Judge
A former District Court Judge, Lefau Harry Schuster, says the position of Deputy Prime Minister is a compulsory appointment under the Constitution and should be filled at all times.
Lefau, who is also a former Member of Parliament, said there is a reason the position is embedded in the Constitution.
Failure to fill it is "not following the letter of the law and the Constitution," he cautioned.
The position previously held by veteran Member of Parliament for Lotofaga, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, became vacant when she resigned two weeks ago.
Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, has since told the media that he will not appoint a Deputy Prime Minister since the General Election is not far away. He said he could carry both roles.
But Lefau said the role of Deputy Prime Minister is mandatory according to the Constitution for good reason.
“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.,” said Lefau. “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.] the Constitution.”
Follow up queries was sent to the Press Secretariat, Nanai Lave Tuiletufuga, requesting for comment from the Prime Minister.
In response, Nanai acknowledged receiving the queries adding that he has forwarded it to the Prime Minister.
In 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.
Lefau expanded on the Constitution explaining 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 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 arise 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.”
Member of Parliament for Salega East, Olo Fiti Vaai raised the alarm on the decision from the Prime Minister not to fill the position claiming it violated the Constitution.
Olo said the Constitution which is the Supreme Law of the country stipulates articles to govern the work of the executive.
He 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 has breached the Constitution and feels he is superior than the rule of law.
“The whole country is watching and this can only be described as being communist country being run without any law,” said the M.P.
“This is our Constitution and everyone including the Executive and himself have to obey it.
“It seems to me that there is no one in there that is qualified for the position other than its predecessor Fiame…”
The M.P. alleges that the reason why the Prime Minister does not want to appoint someone near general election is to avoid any tension within the ruling party.