Elections, fake news and what our leaders can do

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Now that the Christmas festivities are behind us and the New Year is well and truly underway as we knew it would, it’s time to get back to those wonderful problems that are existing gleefully as if to remind us that there is much work to be done. 

Indeed 2019 is shaping up to be a big year and one where there are bound to be some interesting twists and turns.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s comments on the front page of the Samoa Observer yesterday gave us a pretty good idea about some of the challenges up ahead. 

In the political sphere, the fact is that we are again approaching another General Election, just two years away. The leadership of this country is mindful of it – in fact by the end of the year, it is likely that most of the national conversation will be dominated by the General Election –whoever the key players will be. 

What we do know so far is that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is again likely to be a key player in the upcoming election. Having led the H.R.P.P. for the past 20 years – as well as having being a Member of Parliament for 37 years – Tuilaepa knows a thing or two about winning elections. 

The H.R.P.P. will call upon all that experience and more to keep power, which they shouldn’t have any problem with given the absence of a formidable opposition party just yet.

Now asked by this newspaper how his party is preparing and whether they have started to campaign for re-election, Tuilaepa was relaxed, being his usual self. 

“We have always been preparing,” he said. “Everything that we do is preparation for the next election, every project that we do. That’s all very, very important because we have developed a belief that it is not what you say that matters, it’s what you do, actions speak louder.”

Tuilaepa couldn’t have said it better. In fact, that’s the best way to go about it; it’s best to let your actions speak louder. Today, we see far too many people – including political leaders – spew too much rubbish. 

Mind you, Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Government are also guilty of this. They say one thing and do another, they often contradict themselves on policies and actions.

Here in Samoa, the truth is out there for all to see. More and more children are resorting to a life on the streets as they try to fend for their families. Poverty in some places are quite obvious as the standard of living differs widely between the rich and the poor.

What’s happening is the direct result of the Government, the Church and villages inability to address some of the more pressing issues confronting this country. We’re talking about rising economical and social problems, corruption and abuse of power and positions that are hurting the most vulnerable people in our community. 

When it comes to the government, another year has disappeared without a single thing being done to address incidents of corruption highlighted by the Controller and Chief Auditor as well as previous reports by the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C). Transparency? Accountability? Good governance? 

Inside the church, there is reason to believe that some shepherds are doing more harm to the flock, leaving them in sorrow and suffering. Love? Care? Tender mercies? 

As for the villages, we believe the matai system can offer a lot more to help the government and the churches address the problems of today. It involves using the immense power they have to influence young people positively. It also involves them leading by example by doing what is right. It involves them leading with love and compassion and not just meting out cruel punishments for the sake of a few cans of mackerel and money.

These are the challenges of today, things that are screaming at the leadership to address urgently.

Interestingly enough, judging from Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s interview yesterday, he has obviously set out to address the issue of misinformation being spread on social media pages as his priority. The Prime Minister said he is doing this through his weekly media programmes “to ensure that people understand what we try to do and that all counts towards the general elections.”

Said Tuilaepa: “A lot of these things come from overseas. But those people overseas are reproducing fake news from over here. 

“So to counter that I carry out these media conferences every week and on top of that I respond to direct calls from New Zealand and from Australia. 

“That is my countermeasure against fake news. I directly face them with these interviews and I explain, in Samoan, the language which our people understand.”

Well that’s good to know.

But as we’ve seen all over the world, so-called fake news are not confined to Samoa. It is happening everywhere, where there is social media and where people are free to type and post.

What’s important is for the leaders of Samoa to focus on fulfilling their roles first and foremost. 

Let them not worry about fake news, our people are intelligent enough to be able to tell the difference. 

Sometimes it’s best not to dignify these fake news developments with a response, unless we all want to be in their fake circle. 

What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless! 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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