Here’s an idea. Since Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s government just can’t stop meddling with the once sacred office of the Head of State, they should come up with one supreme law to end all madness.
Perhaps they should amend the Constitution to abolish the position once and for all so that whoever the Prime Minister is can also be the “Governor General,” “Head of State” or whatever title tickles their fancy.
And since we’ve now been clearly told that the role is nothing more than a “government appointment,” which “anybody” can occupy, why don’t we run like any other political role and take a vote on it every five years?
We could even advertise it in Samoa and on social media to seek the best candidates and have them interviewed by the Prime Minister and his group. There are plenty of Head of State candidates on social media.
Which should solve all our problems because they are experts in anything and everything.
That way, Members of Parliament can engage in discussing something more productive like those audited reports from the Controller and Auditor General for 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. All we’ve been told is that they have been submitted to the Speaker of Parliament but apart from that, nothing else has been said about them.
They must be gathering wonderful dust on those shelves just like many other taxpayer-funded reports that are shelved and ignored.
Come to think of it, you can’t really blame the Speaker, can you?
After the last Parliament session was cancelled by the Head of State for some unknown reason, Parliament only convened for half a day on Monday (well half minus two tea breaks) before taking a long break until 19 December 2017.
We know what will happen then. They will meet for possibly another half day, say thank you Samoa for the privileges this year, wish everyone a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and away they go again.
Which means nothing is unlikely to be done about anything meaningful – yes like opening and discussing those audited reports - until well… who knows when. Hopefully in this lifetime!
But there is always that vulnerable Office of the Head of State. In the past few years, we’ve lost count of how many times this government has amended the Constitution in relation to the role.
This week, Prime Minister Tuilaepa tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill (No.3) 2017 where the government is proposing to give the holder of the Head of State title a 10-year two-terms limit. Prime Minister Tuilaepa said the change gives the position the respect it deserves.
As it stands, he said it is not a good look when such a highly esteemed role is subjected to a vote every five years.
“This is not a new amendment,” he said. “This is the result of an agreement discussed during an H.R.P.P. caucus meeting. We have 47 of 50 members of this Parliament and we have all come to the conclusion that this is the best way forward.”
Naturally as you would expect in a one-party state, the Prime Minister’s motion was widely supported.
Except for that lone ranger, Olo Fiti Va’ai, whose objection gave rise to the suggestion that since anyone is now eligible to become the Head State every ten years, the government should consider changing the title to that of a Governor General.
Olo went on to criticise the fact the vote is now solely made by H.R.P.P. members outside of Parliament. He argued that to maintain integrity of the position, the vote should be conducted inside Parliament where Samoa meets.
But P.M. Tuilaepa disagreed and he immediately took the floor to correct Olo.
He said the appointment is made in Parliament. Members of the H.R.P.P. only discuss and make their recommendations outside Parliament but the actual appointment only takes place when Parliament convenes.
Olo of course was not convinced.
“But there was no vote (inside Parliament),” Olo fired back. “That was done outside Parliament which does not reflect democratic practices.”
This was again flatly denied by the Prime Minister.
“I want to correct the member who keeps getting this wrong,” he said. “He is an old member of Parliament and he still doesn’t understand these things. The appointment was made in Parliament.”
Alright then; wherever and whenever the appointment was made, let’s just put it down to those “secret whispers.” Where art thou!
Looking at the bill though, Olo questioned the government’s influence on the position. He expressed disappointment that the Head of State appears to be controlled by the government.
He also referred to part of the bill where the Head of State has seven days to sign an issue into law. If he refuses, the Prime Minister will have the power to assign someone else to sign instead of the Head of State.
“What roles do the members of the Council of Deputies serve then?”
Oh come on silly Olo, you shouldn’t have asked.