Former Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi inspecting the Police Guard of Honour during the Independence Day celebrations in June.
By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA – THURSDAY 01 MARCH 2018: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi said the Government never pressured past Heads of State to sign any Act passed by Parliament.
During his weekly media program, he said he was surprised by the claim by former Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi that he was pressured into signing the Land and Titles Registration (LTR) Act 2008.
“I am the Head of State’s advisor, so the pressure, if any should come from me,” said Tuilaepa.
Tui Atua made the claim at a recent event in New Zealand where he was the guest speaker that he was placed under pressure to sign the LTR Act, which is creating a lot of criticisms from the public that the Act exposes customary lands to being lost through mortgage.
Tuilaepa said Tui Atua knew what he was signing, but never raised any concerns or opposition when the LTR Act was presented before him for his signature.
He said in accordance with Government protocol, the Head of State should not be rushed into signing anything.
The other part of Tui Atua’s claim was the limited time given for public consultations but Tuilaepa believes two years was ample time for consultation.
Tuilaepa could not find a reasonable cause for the claim, but said that before any legislation is endorsed, everything goes for the Head of State’s signature.
“All Cabinet and Parliament decisions are also presented to the HOS for his perusal, and if he sees something that Cabinet should reconsider, he would recommend to Cabinet accordingly before that decision is passed in Parliament,” said Tuilaepa.
However, when the Cabinet decision on the LTR Bill was presented to him, he never questioned it or voiced any concerns, and even when it was discussed and debated in Parliament, Tuilaepa said.
He said the protocol is that when the Head of State is concerned about an issue endorsed by Cabinet or any Committee, the Head of State calls a meeting with his advisor, who is the Government leader and the Executive Council to discuss the matters raised.
“During Tui Atua’s tenure as Head of State in the past ten years, he only requested a meeting with me twice, and that was on the Casino Act and the amendment to the Constitution Act on the movement of Members of Parliament from one political party to another,” said Tuilaepa.
“Never on the LTR Act,” said Tuilapea.
Tuilaepa spoke highly of Tui Atu’a wealth of knowledge on issues, and he did not have to ask anyone to explain such laws or Acts to him.
“That is why Government is very cautious in appointing the right person to the Head of States post, because they should understand what they are signing,” said Tuilaepa.
The Prime Minister also explained the official duties of anyone who holds the office of Head of State.
“These official duties include the speech to open Parliament, a speech at the celebration of Independence and a Christmas message,” explains Tuilaepa.
“And he has all the other days to read on decisions and documents presented to him.”
As for the claim about the pressure to sign the Land Act, Tuilaepa believes it was just a side track on another issue.