Samoa following Aust & NZ in Head of State appointment - PM | Pacific Beat

Samoa following Aust & NZ in Head of State appointment - PM

Samoa following Aust & NZ in Head of State appointment - PM

Updated 9 July 2014, 10:48 AEST

Samoa is changing the way it appoints its Head of State.

The move requires a Constitutional amendment which the Opposition is fighting against.

It claims Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele is setting himself up to be appointed the Head of State once he becomes tired of holding the top job.

But the Prime Minister says the amendment is no different from the general practice of other democracies.

Presenter: Catherine Graue

Speaker: Tuilaepa Sa'ilele, Prime Minister, Samoa

TUILAEPA: The proposed new amendment to the nominations to the post of head of state is to replace the existing constitutional provision which allows any two members of parliament to nominate a candidate, that existing provision which was all right in the early years of our parliament when there were no political parties in existence at the time could result in up to 49 nominations, so which would be quite untidy. 
The new amendment proposes that the political party in government recommends one candidate for parliament to approve and it reflects the reality of the today's party politics. In fact, this was what happened in the decision for the incumbent head of state when he was appointed, for the first five years and again reappointed for the second term. The amendment is very straightforward and very simple.
GRAUE: Essentially Prime Minister, this means though that the government is choosing the head of state. How independent can that person be then, given that the head of state is meant to be a figure head and I would imagine quite independent?
TUILAEPA: Well, we are no different now in the amendment from what takes place in New Zealand or Australia, where the government in power recommends the head of state, I mean the governor-general. So what we are doing is no different from the general practice in other democracies.
As I mentioned before, when the government was set up following independence, we did not have any party politics at the time, no parties, and therefore the election of the head of state was simply like choosing a president of a rugby team or a cricket team somebody recommends and another would second the motion and then for the whole ATM to vote on it, that is the position now in accordance with the Constitution. But what we are recommending reflects the reality of what we did in the election of the present head of state and when he had him again re-elected.
The reference to the other intention and allegation that I wanted to be head of state is a reflection of ignorance, of the function of the Prime Minister.
In democracies, like Australia and New Zealand, the head of state or the governor-general is only a figure head. There is no challenge and to become a Prime Minister is of greater significance than to become a governor-general.
GRAUE: But you have been Prime Minister since 1998, you are one of the longest serving Prime Minister in Samoa. How much longer do you plan to be Prime Minister and do you want perhaps, would you be interested in being a head of state, is that at least true?
TUILAEPA: Well, I had mentioned in my response to a very stupid declaration by an ignorant leader of our Opposition that for a person to be Prime Minister and to aspire for another post is indeed ridiculous and it reflects the complete misunderstanding of the function and the challenges facing a Prime Minister.
The question that you post the interests you see for me to continue or not to continue is all dependent on the decision of my caucus.
GRAUE: All right Prime Minister, if we could move onto another issue. You've recently signed an Memorandum Of Understanding which is essentially approving the setting of a tuna loining work by the Bumble Bee Cannery, essentially in Apia there. Opponents claims that it's location, so close to the town will mean that the whole capital will have a terrible smell. Do you believe that that's the case?
TUILAEPA: I made the point to the complaint by my counterpart in the Opposition that is it more important to get jobs, than to get irritating with a smell. In any case, the company itself proposes to set up it's feed mill, which is always responsible for the odour, at another place where we dump our rubbish, so that the smell would not matter.
GRAUE: But why not set up elsewhere outside of town to begin with, instead of having it so?
TUILAEPA: It is outside of town.
GRAUE: And is there any concern about damage to the environment. We've seen just this week in American Samoa...
TUILAEPA: Well, as you heard, a rubbish dump is a rubbish dump and that's where we're going to establish it and when you talk about the environment at a rubbish dump, we have already established a system to ensure that the damage to the environment is minor.
GRAUE: So you're in no way compromising the environment and the state of Apia for jobs?
TUILAEPA: There is no impact to the environment. All that comment is based on ignorance of the proposed project details.
GRAUE: And so under the MOU, you expect the construction might begin as soon as the end of the year. When would jobs start?
TUILAEPA: It should begin very soon.
GRAUE: How soon Prime Minister, are you sure, you have any dates?
TUILAEPA: Towards the end of the year.
GRAUE: All right. And just finally, another date that we're after, there's growing speculation that you've won the approval for a tour by the All Blacks next year to Samoa. Can you confirm that?
TUILAEPA: Well, I am still awaiting confirmation in writing, but I have seen the CEO of the Rugby Union speak over the television and the news item is most welcomed. They even name the date, which is next year, about July, and the whole of 180-thousand people in this paradise in the centre of the Pacific are all excited about the proposed match. I think it will be a point up for the Pacific, not only Samoa, but also Tonga and also Fiji. We have made a lot of compliments about the way the Pacific play and it is ridiculous that our closest neighbours, Australia and New Zealand have not played a match in our respective capitals. And for the All Blacks to come is commendable to the management of the All Blacks and I hope the Wallabies will do likewise.


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