By Lagi Keresoma
APIA, SAMOA: Avoiding unnecessary pressure within caucus and Cabinet, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is not appointing a Deputy Prime Minister and he will carry the responsibilities until after the general elections.
The post has been left vacant since Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa resigned last Friday.
Tuilaepa had been downplaying the impact of his Deputy’s departure. He however acknowledged Fiame’s service of 35 years as an MP, Cabinet Minister and Deputy leader for the ruling Human Rights Protection Party.
Fiamē resigned on a matter of principle as she could not support the 3 controversial Bills that she led her constituency to present their submission before the Parliamentary Committee last Wednesday at her village, Lotofaga.
Tuilaepa revealed his decision in his weekly programme on Radio Polynesia today.
“O le a taoto ai faapea, e le o toe mamao le faiga palota ona ou manatu ai lea o le a tauave pea e a’u le Matagaluega,” said Tuilaepa.
He said it’s not new for him to look after a Ministry because he has been doing it everytime a Minister travels abroad.
The replacement for Fiamē had been the centre of discussion since her resignation and some media outlets ran public opinion polls for a replacement.
Some political observers however say given the sensitivities of Fiamē’s departure, any appointment now could present unneeded pressure within Cabinet and caucus. Tuilaepa’s decision to delay it seems to be the best solution for the party.
Fiamē made history as Samoa’s first female Deputy Prime Minister when she was appointed by caucus after the 2016 general elections. However the rules have since changed, giving the Prime Minister the power (and not caucus), to appoint his Deputy.
The Human Rights Protection Party recently re-elected Tuilaepa as leader and he announced then that Fiamē remained as Deputy Prime Minister.
Tuilaepa said today that he believed that with COVID-19 and the lock down, there was not much work left especially with 8 more months before the general election on 9 April 2021.
He also did not want to add more pressure on HRPP member’s preparation for the election.
He however said one will be appointed to take over his duties if he travels to Savaii or American Samoa.