How corruption is solved the Samoan way. With “a pile of stones.”

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

It has been close to six weeks since the Minister of Women Affairs, Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Leiataua, had sparked what has now become the most idiotic fracas this country has ever heard and seen.

He did this with his equally unbelievable demand that the recently appointed Police Commissioner, Fui’availili Egon Keil, should apologise for comparing the Fa’amatai - or village leadership if you will – to what is commonly known as the American Military System.

Incidentally, that is the “system” in which Fui’availili had served as an American soldier for a number of years, and during which time he has been putting his life at risk with his full knowledge that he could be shot and killed any day.

The salient point here then is that like all America soldiers who went to war in their service to their country, Fui’availili risked his life so that the people of the entire world – including those of Samoa where Tolofuaivalelei is a cabinet minister - are guaranteed a life of unblemished peace and blissful freedom for as long as they live.

In any case, the furor that Tolofuaivalelei had caused has since been raging on unabatedly with others adding fodder to the flames so that today the mind, not knowing how this madness can help it achieve what it is here to achive, is just cringing and cringing in despicable frustration and shame.

The questions then are: Why should Police Commissioner, Fui’availili Egon Keil, apologise? What has he done wrong to justify any apology at all?

Still, supposing that he does decide to accept Tolofuaivalelei’s demand to apologise for whatever reason, to whom is he to apologise?

Tolofuaivalelei Falemoe Lei’ataua?

Please don’t answer.

It’s a sad story though.

Here is a man who served in the American Military for years, he finished his stint in the armed forces successfully, he was therefore honourably discharged, and then when he returned to his country of birth which happened to be Samoa, he was appointed Police Commissioner, and then while he was carrying out his duties the best way he knew how, he was frowned upon and treated like trash.

Thank you Tolofuaivalelei. Thank you Samoa.

This is to say he was accused of comparing the corrupt fa’amatai to the military system where strict disciplinary is insisted upon at all times, and then as if salt was being dumped on the wound, he was told to go down on his knees and apologise.

And so we ask one more time. What has Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, done wrong so that he should perform the most demeaning act a man is demanded to do which is apologise? We have no idea.

All we know is that he was working towards stemming corrosive corruption within the bureaucratic system called the Samoan government, where it has become so rampant it’s quite understandable if people like Tolofuaivalelei are afraid of looking at it squarely in the face today.

It’s inevitable. They are without a doubt willing beneficiaries of government corruption that those including Fui’availili see as the root cause of the ills that are continuing to drive this country towards the very dregs today.

And if you’re really that keen, then just take a look at the little epistle that a member of the public had sent over a couple of days after Christmas.

It says: “What Egon meant was that the matai system has rules that are to be respected and demand accountability and transparency.

 “Every Samoan knows our fa’amatai system is not like a military one, but if you broke the village council rules then the consequences can be quite serious than it is in any military.

 “They can burn family properties down,” the writer goes on to explain. “They can stone family members; exile villagers; fight with machetes without any proper court procedures in some cases resulting in murder, and all this is happening because of corrupt politicians corrupting the matai system.”

What he says next though is quite disturbing so that it will not be published here. But then I suppose that’s how excruciatingly irate some can become when all of a sudden they’re confronted with silly prattle like the one the Minister had presented publicly.

According to the writer though, there are those government officers “who should be the last to open their corrupt mouths.”

For instance, there is one “who needs to declare his assets and be investigated for corruption; he also holds shares in a State Owned Enterprises which need to be declared as well.”

Who this person is though the writer does not say. Still, he doesn’t mind saying: “That’s the one who needs to apologize to the Commissioner and the people of Samoa.”

As for “the corruption in the Police Force,” the writer explains “it all started with past Commissioners and Senior Officers who broke the law to protect the government, and from there things got out of control”

And in his opinion, “the minister’s comment was predictable and government ministers are against the new Commissioner for trying to do the right thing by the people.

“He took Egon’s comments out of context to manipulate the people, but then the people of this nation are not stupid.”

He then predicts that “this will become a David and Goliath battle - Egon vs Govt., (and that), like it or night, it is the corrupt government that needs to go in order for Samoa to go forward.”

Still, whatever the writer is talking about here, we are not sure.

All we can say is that contrary to what some have said, the people of this country do respect their chosen leaders very much, and yet there are times when that respect is stressed so close to the brink of snapping we begin to worry, and such a time is now.

The point is that if anyone should apologise over this silly bickering at the public expense, it has got to be the Minister who started it all.

He should say: Sorry Police Commissioner and Samoa for lousing up your time with such a childish demand for a lousy apology I’d made anyway.

Please believe me when I say I had no idea this silly fracas would be idiotically prolonged by others for one reason or another, and today I promise you all that this sort of nonsense would never happen again.

Not during the few weeks remaining in my present term of office anyway. So please help me.

Now that’s all he needs to say.

And there should be no shame in apologising publicly anyway, especially when the next general elections are just a couple of months up ahead, and from experience we know that every contestant wants to win that seat in that Parliament.

However, it seems as though the leader of the Opposition Tautua Samoa Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II, does not – and would not - subscribe to that view.

Told by Speaker La’auli the other day recently to apologise to Parliament, Palusalue refused. Not once but a number of times we’ve been told.

That way it looks as if Palusalue, the Safata M.P., is so confident he’d be returned to Parliament he just doesn’t care about obeying the Speakers’ orders; now that’s the sort of leader we want to be in that Parliament where everyone knows that even the Speaker is not without blemish.

Reports the Samoa Observer: “(Palusalue) refused to apologise despite being asked repeatedly by the Speaker to do so over claims of ‘conflict of interest’ the Safata M.P. made against the government, the Speaker and other Cabinet Ministers.” It was when Palusalue criticised “multiple government ministers for running what he described as dirty election campaigns” where they used their positions to influence voters.

Palusalue told Parliament: “I highly value the programmes being carried out in the villages including Savai’i. But when I see an issue of conflict of interest I cannot let that go. Samoa can be the judge.”

In response, Speaker La’auli said it was difficult to accept Palusalue’s criticisms when he sat in on the meetings and agreed with the decision to stage the event in question at Sasina.

He accused Palusalue of betraying the Committee and devaluing the efforts of the government to tackle non communicable diseases in the villages, especially in Savai’i.

Warned La’auili: “Palu, you’re not the only one who knows how to throw stones. We’re also sitting on a pile of stones (we can throw your way).” Fine, Palusalue nodded. La’auli then asked Palusalue to apologise.

When Palusalue took the floor he refused to apologise. He said he was finding it hard to ignore how the government was suddenly rushing so many projects in the villages with the elections in mind, and he insisted that there was a conflict of interest in all the cases.  “Samoa can be the judge of that,” he repeated. It was about that point that Prime Minister, Tuilaepa, intervened saying he backed the Speaker, and he then went on to say Palusalue’s allegation was unfounded.

 “The decision involved the University of the South Pacific,” Tuilaepa said. “It was not made by us. It was made from Fiji. So it’s not a decision made by a Minister.”

Tuilaepa also told Palusalue: “Let me remind you that this is a working government. We have been working since the beginning and we are still working today.”

And then he told Palusalue: “You’ve been here (as a former H.R.P.P Cabinet Minister). We worked from the beginning until the end and you never objected.

 “We work hard, like untitled men. Of all people, you Palu, should know that.

“You never raised the question about a conflict of interest.”

And then attacking the Opposition Members from Savai’i for criticizing the decision to hold the events there, Tuilaepa snapped:

“This was the worst part. Let me remind you that this is the government that follows its motto that says: ‘What’s good for Upolu is also good for Savai’i’.”

Tuilaepa also said: “The decision to hold those events in Savai’i is a reflection of that.”

In any case, that was when the man who gave the Police Commissioner,

Fui’availili, a hard time, the Minister of Women, Tolofuaivalelei, joined the fray.

Like he did to Fui’availili, this time he’s urging Palusalue to apologise.

He said to Palusalue: “When the decision was made nobody objected.

“There was not a beep from the opposition leader, but then I guess you’ve since found some ammunition to use against the government.”

And yet Palusalue would still not apologise.

Which led to the Speaker saying to Palusalue once again: “So let’s play the ball. Not the man. Let’s not throw stones, we’ve got a pile of stones here too.”

Now finally, the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Manu’alesagalala Enokati Posala, who is also from Safata – Palusalue’s constituency – intervened.

He took the floor, and now announcing that he was apologizing on behalf of Palusalue and their constituency, he said:  “Please forgive Palu ….,” - he was still speaking when Palusalue, obviously unimpressed¬¬, had stood up and he was yelling out - “Brother, you won’t win yourself any votes with that one.” In a jiff the Speaker intervened and ordered Palusalue to sit down. Palusalue did as he was told. Slowly. In the end he had still did not apologise.

So what’s next? We have no idea.

All we’ve hearing is the Speaker’s warning: “So let’s play the ball.

Not the man. Let’s not throw stones, we’ve got a pile of stones here too.”

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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