“...Even fools are right sometimes” – Winston Churchill

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Winston S. Churchill once coined these famous words. Said he: “The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”

It would be interesting to know what Mr. Churchill was thinking when he coined the famous phrase. But looking at what’s happening in government in Samoa these days, it’s good to be reminded about Mr. Churchill’s comment.

What with this newspaper – and other critics - being called all sorts of wonderful names such as “idiots,” “fools” and “kids” by the powerful and mighty, it’s wise to know that sometimes “fools” get it right.

Last week, we received some wonderful news. It came from the Controller and Auditor General, Fuimaono Camillo Afele, who said the Audit reports for 2013 to 2016 have neither been forgotten nor buried under the mat. He said the reports in question are being prepared and they should be tabled in Parliament before December. 

Wonderful. We can hardly wait. If the past is to be our judge, we can assume that the Audit reports will be referred to the Officers of Parliament Committee for an investigation. What happens then we just don’t know. 

Again it the past is to be our judge, the last O.P.C report was a waste of time. We say this because up until now, it has been left on the shelves to gather dust. While it has been passed by Parliament – which means they have accepted everything that is there – it was not debated and might never be.

What’s the point then of these reports? 

When this newspaper raised this question the last time, the leadership of government did not hesitate to call us “fools” and “idiots.” They simply said we did not know what we were talking about. 

It’s true we are not big lauias when it comes to accounting and economics but we do know when precious taxpayers monies are being wasted when these reports are simply left on the shelves to gather dust. 

Now let’s go back a little to April 2014 when Parliament accepted and passed 39 reports without a debate. At the time, the two key players were Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and the then Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Polata’ivao Fosi.

The Prime Minister had moved a motion for Parliament to adopt the reports without debate so “that we can get on to the Officers of Parliament Committee (O.P.C) report.”

The leader of the Opposition then, Palusalue Fa’apo II, objected.

“Mr. Speaker all these reports are very important and all the Members of the House want to speak about them, especially this side,” he said. “There are a lot of serious matters in these reports that we should be looking at into.”

Tuilaepa disagreed.

“Mr. Speaker, the final word about these reports is the response from the government,” he fired back. “What’s the point when a lot of these reports are dated? The reports we need are reports about today, what’s happening now, current reports.”

Prime Minister Tuilaepa had a point. 

But whose fault is it that the reports were dated? Who has been lording over the government whose ministries have been behaving like little rascals submitting their reports whenever they feel like it?

In any case, then Speaker La’auli supported Tuilaepa. Said he: “It’s much better to move a motion now that the government has officially accepted all these reports, then the government will respond to the concerns raised by the Committees and their Chairs.”

In the end, Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s motion was passed with assistance from the Speaker. And in doing so, the opportunity for the voice of the public to be heard in Parliament through questions raised by their representatives in the House about all these reports – as Palusalue alluded to – was lost.

But that wasn’t all. 

In the very next breath, Parliament went on to ignore the promise by the government to debate the controversial Controller and Chief Auditor report, as well as the Officers of Parliament Committee report.

After a few tears were shed, followed by the exchange of hugs and kisses, another motion was moved and both reports were accepted without a single question raised about them.

In the process, accountability, transparency and good governance was shunned.

We say this because with the acceptance of an apology and a resignation from one of the many public officials implicated in the reports, the content of these two reports – which highlighted unbridled corruption throughout the government – has been shelved forever.

Indeed, the countless questions members of the public wanted answered – about how their hard-earned taxes have been spent – or misspent – will never be addressed. And we’re not talking about a few hundreds of tala here; we are talking about millions that are now unlikely to be accounted for.

But former Speaker La’auli was not finished. 

On the same night when Parliament accepted all those reports without a proper debate, he called for the media – made up of those “fools” and “idiots” - to be investigated by Parliament’s all-powerful Privileges and Ethics Committee.

Unhappy about this newspaper’s publication of the Controller and Chief Auditor’s report, Speaker La’auli felt that he had a point to prove.

“Our main goal is to follow procedures,” he said. “We have Standing Orders and other laws that protect and guide Parliamentary rights.” 

Looking back now, what on earth is he talking about? Procedures?  Rights?

Who is kidding whom here? Do they really think the people of this country are that gullible they cannot see what is going on?

Now throughout all this debacle, the government had been working extremely hard to discredit this newspaper. 

As we’ve said before, we’ve lost count of how many times Prime Minister Tuilaepa has called us “idiots” and “fools” simply for questioning his government’s record when it comes to accountability and transparency.

Back then, we said that the former Speaker’s decision in question was not just an insult to the media; it was an insult against members of the public whose bitter sweat and hard-earned taxes will remain unaccounted for. Forever.

As we are resting this Sunday, taking some time to recollect our thoughts after what has been a very busy week, Mr. Churchill’s famous words are worth thinking about. Indeed, the greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes. Or in the words of a matai from Sakalafai during a recent dispute over land, “e moni lava e valea Sakalafai, ae le valea tele fo’i.” 

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless! 

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