An independent Head of State’s Office necessary — A Samoa Observer Editorial
Early this week on Monday – when the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of the Head of State’s decision to declare the dissolution of the 9 April General Election results – there was a paragraph on the second last page of the 28-page judgement.
The paragraph was dedicated to the Office of the Head of State and highlighted the Court’s concerns about its independence and the need for the Office to have access to “independent staff and resources” including legal advisors.
“Finally, we note that, arising from this constitutional issue, it may be timely for the office of the Head of State to have access to publicly funded but independent staff and resources, including legal advisors,” stated the Supreme Court judgement.
“In the 21st Century the burden of the Office has greatly increased.
“Much of the work of the office is concerned with implementing the Government of the day's advice, and in that regard it is appropriate for the Head of State to receive advice from the Attorney General, Art. 41(2); however, we consider that it would be prudent for the Head of State to have available extra support staff particularly when the need arises.”
In recent weeks, in the lead-up to and after the 9 April 2021 General Election, we have published editorials that expressed the need for our public office holders to remain impartial during and after an election period in order to retain the integrity of our government systems.
Regardless of how we view the position of the Head of State, whose appointment is often seen as ceremonial with limited powers, it remains at the apex of Samoa’s constitutional framework and as such should be independently funded and resourced in line with the Supreme Court’s recommendations.
And while Samoa’s Constitution is explicit on the Head of State “in the performance of his or her functions shall act on the advice of Cabinet, the Prime Minister or the appropriate Minister” (Article 26), having the funding and resources at one’s disposal to be able to make the best decision for the country and its citizens’ benefit remains critical.
Even giving the Office of the Head of State its own annual funding under the Executive Government’s budgetary process, which is subject to the Parliament during the budget session, would be a step forward.
Ultimately, we want an Office of the Head of the State that is ready to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century, and the constitutional crisis that the country now finds itself embroiled justifies the need for the reforming of the Office.