The context of the Public Service Commission’s (P.S.C.) newsletter which referred to the government considering a law change to allow a woman as the Head of State does not sit well with the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Agafili Shem Leo.
“The Head of State Act does not discriminate nor does it indicate that only men can be Head of State.”
That was the response from Agafili, who said he was “shocked” with the context of the newsletter.
According to the newsletter, Cabinet Directive (FK (17) 33 had tasked the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (M.P.M.C.) to lead the preparations for the review of the Head of State Act 1965.
“This review was prompted by Cabinet to reflect changes made to the Constitution regarding the Head of State post,” the notice reads.
“Some of these changes include, but are not limited to the eligibility criteria, the number of years or the duration of service and the possibility of having a female Head of State in the future.
“Other key changes that will be proposed deals with changing the agency responsible for administering the Head of State Act from the Legislative Assembly to the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.”
The Public Service Commission has since corrected the newsletter and apologised for the error.
Contacted for a comment, Agafili said he was disappointed with the context of the newsletter.
“The newsletter issued makes it seem like women are not qualified, but that is not the case here, the Act is crystal clear,” he said.
“The Act does not say that only men are qualified.
“That is why this issue has never been brought up before Cabinet because there is no need.
“The Act is clear and it does not pin point to only men allowed, it does not say that only men can become Head of State and that is why I was shocked to the reference used in the newsletter.
“Again the proposal that came was for Parliament to review the said Act, but it does not say to include women to become Head of State.
“No, I guess because only men were head of state, the late Malietoa Tanumafili II, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and Tuimaleali’ifano Sualauvi II were all men, gave the idea that women cannot become Head of State.
“Also keep in mind the decision is made solely by Parliament, which is now for two terms, upon the vote of Parliament, regardless whether it’s a man or a woman.
“Under the Constitution, the decision goes back to Parliament and that is why I will not accept this, I have already spoken to the P.S.C. and they had apologized and said they will issue a correction.
“The context of the newsletter will mislead the public, making it seem like only men are eligible, but no.
“Again the Act does not say only men are qualified to be Head of State.”
Regarding the FK quoted by the newsletter, Agafili told the Samoa Observer “this F.K. relates to the Constitutional amendment to the Head of State's term in office which was subsequently tabled in Parliament late last year.
“In that FK, the Ministry was instructed to review the Head of State Act to ensure that there is a clear reappointment process for the Head of State after the first term.
“There is nothing in the FK that mentions or implies the possibility of having a female Head of State as you had stated.”
The Ministry however is not just looking at the reappointment process, but it’s reviewing the whole Act, working with the office of the Attorney General (O.A.G.).
“We will be submitting the Ministry's final review instructions to the O.A.G. for their usual legal counsel this month.”
Furthermore, Agafili pointed out that the gist of the FK as explained was the approval of the Constitutional amendment on the Head of State's term in office.
“Relating to that, the Ministry was instructed to review the Act so that there is a clear reappointment process after the H.O.S.'s first term, and to review the salutations of the Head of State in the Act.
“I reiterate that there is nothing in the said F.K. on a possibility of a female Head of State in the future.
“I had spoken this morning with the Public Service Commission and they are working on correcting that section of their newsletter.
“This is a misquote on the newsletter.
“I confirm that the M.P.M.C. will finalise the review instructions and will furnish it to the O.A.G. for their legislative review this month.”