Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has leapt to the defense of Police Commissioner, Fuiava Egon Keil, as the war of opinions continue over his comments about the military and the matai system.
“People have different interpretations of what was said (by the Commissioner) but for me I can clearly see the context in which the Commissioner made the reference,” Tuilaepa said.
“He was speaking from a peace keeping perspective. The most important thing about the fa’amatai is to maintain peace and order within the village. And similarly, that’s the goal of the military and the army, to keep the peace.”
Tuilaepa made the comment during his weekly media conference where he was asked about the issue.
The comment by Fuiava was made as part of his response to a letter, which questions the administration of the Ministry of Police. Penned by a group which describes themselves as “police officers who want to make use of the time and money we are paid with,” claims that Commissioner Fuiava is running the police force “like a military base”.
In response, Commissioner Fuiava said the police force is in fact, a “quasi-military organisation”.
“That’s really interesting because if you look at the matai system, it’s run like a military,” he said. “There is a head matai that makes decisions and once that decision is made, every one aligns with that. “[The] matai system, where one big matai talks and everybody listens, that is a military system, so if there is any military system, it’s been going on in Samoa for many, many years. If you look at our government as well, there are tiers, that is a military format as well.”
Observing the differences of opinions – including officials who have called for the Commissioner to apologise – Tuilaepa said the issue is a “storm in a tea cup”
“It is stupid,” he said. “What he said has been taken out of context by people who want to give the Commissioner a bad name, to ruin the good work that’s been done.
“It’s a simple matter, everyone in the police force has to play their role, take instructions and be precise in terms of their roles in maintaining law and order. It’s the same in the villages.”
Tuilaepa also used the opportunity to highlight the important role played by the matai system in the enforcing the law.
“If it wasn’t for the matai system, Samoa would be a very difficult country (to police). So for me, I like the spirit in which the Commissioner’s analogy was made so that they can improve their delivery of their service to protect the people of Samoa. Which is the same goal of the matai system in protecting the villages.”
The Prime Minister said some people have overemphasized the matter. “The word military is not a Samoan word. So when you try and translate it into a Samoan word, that’s why these things have come up…it’s a storm in a teacup, it’s such a stupid thing.”