The Government is moving to amend the Constitution once more in relation to the role of the Head of State to make the Office a lot “more professional.”
That’s what Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi told Parliament yesterday during the second reading of the Head of State Amendment Bill 2018.
The amendments seek to bring the entitlements and salaries of the Head of State and members of the Council of Deputy to be in line with the public service salary scale.
The Bill was among three Bills tabled and discussed during Parliament’s half a day session.
The other Bills include the Alcohol Control Amendment Bill 2018 and the Intellectual Property Amendment Bill 2018.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said Samoa has been independent for 56 years. In the beginning, he reminded that more than 160 chiefs of Samoa deliberated on the Articles of the Constitution. They agreed on having two Heads of State.
“There was Tupua Tamasese Meaole and Malietoa Tanumafili II,” he said.
According to Tuilaepa, a lot of articles in the Constitution in relation to the Head of State no longer apply which is why the amendments are necessary.
“A lot has changed and now the tenure is limited to five years. This means the conditions at the time were specifically for the first two Heads of States, Tupua and Malietoa. This is why we are moving to amend the Act.”
He made it clear that anyone is entitled to become the Head of State now, as long as they are a chief and elected by Members of Parliament.
Tuilaepa also took issue with the word “faletua” (wife of a paramount chief) used in the proposed amendments.
“The English word spouse is relevant but the Samoan word must be changed to reflect both genders, but not faletua,” said Tuilaepa.
The amendments also touch on how to address the Head of State.
It proposes that instead of “His Highness,” it should be the “Afioga i le Ao o le Malo.” The same goes for the Masiofo.
Member of Parliament for Vaimauga Sasa’e, Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, objected to this.
“The use of the Afioga i le Ao o le Malo is a bit shallow. It does not reflect the sacredness of the title as used before with His Highness,” he said.
Sulamanaia also took issue with the plan for the Ministry of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to administer the affairs of the Head of State’s Office.
It means the administration of the office will appoint the Secretary to the Head of State on a three-year contract.
“The Head of State is appointed by Parliament that is that,” said Sulumanaia. “Then there are Cabinet Ministers who appoint their own secretaries. Why can’t the Head of State appoint his own secretary?”
Tuilaepa intervened and said the executive are paying for the salaries, therefore the selection must come from them.
“Please be reminded that Cabinet gives the final approval on anything,” he said.
Salega East Member of Parliament, Olo Fit Vaai, supported Sulamanaia.
“The correct salutation should still be His Highness the Head of State and not just plainly the Head of State."
“Just leave that part the way it is.”
Another amendment states the Head of State must be paid an allowance at a rate fixed from time to time by Cabinet for the following: telephone and overseas official travels and medical entitlements.
Another proposed change relates to the allowances and privileges of the spouse of the Head of State.
“If the Head of State is living with his or her spouse at the time of his or her death, the spouse is entitled to be paid an amount equal to the salary of the Head of State for three months from the date of death of the Head of State as a one off payment.”
The running cost including maintenance of all motor vehicles (assigned to the Office of the Head of State) is to be paid for by annual appropriation under the Ministry budget.
The second reading of the Head of State Amendment Bill 2018 was passed yesterday.
Parliament has been adjourned until 18 December 2018.