Samoa’s cyber wars a lost political discourse

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Let’s see. One could be forgiven for thinking that the political discourse in Samoa these days has become one big comedy. Well almost if only the issues were not so deadly serious.

What with politicians and leaders going out of their way to make a big deal out of what’s being said on social media and other forums in cyber space, becoming extremely frustrated and focused on every little detail, you wonder if by doing that they haven’t compounded their problems. 

Ignorance is bliss, they say. Sometimes it’s best to look the other way - when you can.

Which brings us to a question we wanted to ask.  Would the developments on social media today – with the level of allegations deteriorating and becoming more damaging by the day – reach the point they are at, if our leaders had just focused on their roles as opposed to dignifying the existence of these claims? 

From our standpoint, we just cannot see an ending to this now. The Government has opened a can of worms that will continue to come back to bite them where the sun don’t shine unless they do something extreme to stop it.

The truth is that this discourse is only going to get dirtier and nastier.  And the Prime Minister’s Government – as powerful as they are – will not be able to control it unless of course they decide to do away with social media altogether. 

Whichever way you look at it, the exchanges make Samoa look like a nation of fools. The worst part is that they are gathering scores of followers each day so that we will never see the ending to it.

Now the decision by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to dignify some of it with a response will not help matters. 

Last week, Tuilaepa attacked Lawyer and Government critic, Maua Faleauto, and self-proclaimed “private investigative blogger”, Dennis A. Smith, during an interview with the government-owned Savali Newspaper.

The Prime Minister was asked about people who constantly criticise every decision the government makes when Maua Faleauto’s name popped up. 

“I knew his grandparents well and also his father Leifi Faleauto. When I was at St. Paul’s College in 1964, his grandparents invited me to a Sunday toona’i at their home not far from my school then,” he said. 

 “Some fifteen years ago, he came to Samoa. He worked briefly with the Police as prosecutor for the police, during Papali’i Lolenese’s term as Commissioner, then opened his private practice for a short time, then closed when his father died suddenly. 

“I helped with the arrangements for the transfer of his father’s body to New Zealand, and I saw Maua off at the airport with the coffin. That’s the last time I saw him!”

Maybe it’s time for a family reunion? That could perhaps solve all their problems.

But then there is Dennis A. Smith.

“He came to my office over five years ago to request my help over a rent dispute with his landlord at Satapuala. I summoned the landlord to my office and settled the dispute the Samoan way,” Tuilaepa said. 

“And to celebrate the occasion, I hosted dinner so that the Satapuala landlord and Smith would both forgive and forget. At 11:00 p.m. afterwards that night I came out to the dark car park for my transport home, and there was John Campbell waiting with his camera trying to catch me for an interview which I had scheduled for the following week. 

“Meantime, Mr. Smith did not attend the dinner. He left for New Zealand the same evening – The rest is history.”

Asked if he knew why Mr. Smith does not like him, Tuilaepa said no.

“Since I helped him, he regularly visited my office with a request that I employed him to set up my Facebook. He never understood that I never wanted publicity,” Tuilaepa said. 

Tuilaepa said he doesn’t know where Mr. Smith has disappeared.

“My Minister of Samoa Lands Corporation informed me some time ago that Mr. Smith was granted a lease hold on land under the S.L.C. for a Tourism Development which he never implemented nor paid the lease, rental accrued. So the Minister evicted him from the land and deported him from Samoa for good.”

Now both Maua and Mr. Smith are based in New Zealand. They have since rubbished the claims from Prime Minister Tuilaepa.

Said Maua: “Interesting that Samoans are not concerned with the damage that the P.M. has done to the nation but try to make it personal. History will record me as a patriot who put the interests of all Samoans before family loyalties. No Samoan may betray our entire race by agreeing with Asian investors to break up our customary land and expect praise.”

He added that now people know him and Tuilaepa are family, they should believe him when “I say he is not” what he claims to be.

As for Mr. Smith, he said Tuilaepa’s decision to attack him and Maua shows the Government is afraid.

“This extraordinary personal attack on two law abiding individuals was clearly initiated by the Prime Minister of Independent Samoa,” Mr. Smith said.  “It really shows the fear the political establishment has with the power of bloggers and political critics online.”

As for his departure from Samoa, Mr. Smith disputed Tuilaepa’s claim he did not know about it.

“Tuilaepa claims that one of his ministers deported me in 2016 and that he hardly knew me,” he said, adding that this could not possibly be the case since Tuilaepa knew because he was the Minister of Immigration and only he could have issued the deportation order.

Well what does Prime Minister Tuilaepa say about that? Stay tuned!

In the meantime, we humbly suggest that our leaders - including  Prime Minister Tuilaepa - should focus on what really matters rather than wasting his energy on a war he cannot win. 

There are people in Samoa today who are poor, they suffer from poverty and some families with no water and electricity. They should go out and help them, get the Savali to take pictures and blast it all over the media and Facebook. 

That would be a much better response. Don’t you think?

Have a great Tuesday Samoa, God bless!


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