When the pot calls the kettle black

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The Prime Minister’s outburst at the Commissioner of Prisons and Correctional Services, Taitosaua Edward Winterstein, inside his office last week was interesting.

The fact is that Taitosaua – and many other public servants - are easy targets for cheap shots from bullying politicians who obviously feel they have the power to vent and abuse officials below their watch. 

It’s a hard line to walk, especially when it comes to controversies such the incident during which a tourist was raped by an escaped convict. The incident has been well told and we don’t feel there is a need for anything said anymore about. It’s time to take the lessons, learn them and move on in the hope that such a terrible thing wouldn’t happen again.

In Samoa today, you’d find that the majority of people have moved on. 

But Prime Minister Tuilaepa seems to be having a hard time forgetting the 60 Minutes saga so that during a totally unrelated event, he did not hesitate to level the unprecedented attack on the unsuspecting Taitosaua. 

Listen to him again: “A decision should also be made with regards to the Commissioner of Prisons for being foolish and negligent, which has brought shame to our country.”

Well that’s quite harsh thing to say, don’t you think. 

Negligent? Foolish? And who exactly has brought shame to Samoa?

We agree to an extent that Taitosaua is responsible for what happens at Tafa’igata Prison. As the man in charge of the facility that should keep prisons away from members of the public, the buck stops with him and yes he should take some of the blame for Lautiti Tualima’s behvaviour – and all other prisoners who have been waltzing away from jail. 

But he cannot be crucified for systemic failures that led to this one incident Tuilaepa now just cannot forget about. The issues up Tafaigata are not new. To be fair to Taitosaua, he has only been there a short while ago. And yet the problems at Tafaigata have been inherited by one Commissioner after another. They have been there for years. 

Have we forgotten about the Commissions of Inquiries, the reports from the U.S. State Departments and all the documentaries about the issues at Tafa’igata?

Who is responsible then for those problems? 

The answer is quite simple; it is the government, which Tuilaepa has been proudly lording over for the past many years. They are directly responsible and the buck stops with them. 

Which means that if anyone has been negligent, it is the government that has been negligent. Ladies and gentlemen, only a fool would try and defend that pathetic excuse of a fence at the prison.

We believe the real issue is that these problems is the result of the stench emanating from the government’s failure to address incidents of corruption and abuse that have contributed to the demise of our prisons. Imagine all those millions if they were used appropriately.

We are referring to the incidents identified by the Controller and Chief Auditor as well as the Officers of Parliament Committee Report (O.P.C). The content of these reports have been published in detail on the pages of this newspaper and they highlight “corrupt practises” as well as cases of abuse, mismanagement and negligence in the public service.

Without a doubt, these reports embarrass Samoa more than anything because they paint a very shameful image of the government. It is an embarrassment because it makes a mockery of the transparency, accountability and good governance this government is forever harping about.

Perhaps it explains why Prime Minister Tuilaepa has been happy to say nothing about these reports at all, instead deflecting attention with personal attacks such as the one on Taitosaua. 

Today, let’s be reminded that we sow what we reap. A lot of the problems we have today – including Tafa’igata – could easily have been avoided if our leaders do what the promise to do.

Now let’s see, what’s the point of having the Chief Auditor report directly to Parliament when nothing is done to address issues highlighted in his report? Who needs a Chief Auditor then if his reports are ignored and shelved?

What’s the point of appointing the Officers of Parliamentary Committee if their work is also ignored? Why don’t we just take all the money wasted in compiling these reports and give it to the poor people of this country instead?

The point is that acts of corruption, abuse and mismanagement among the public service highlighted by these reports must not be ignored. They must not be swept under the carpet where we pretend that all is well in paradise. This is what is hurting our people.

And here we have the Prime Minister throwing terms like negligence and foolish around. 

Come on, who is kidding whom here? 

This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. What do you think?

Have a wonderful Tuesday Samoa, God bless!

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