Forum meeting, custodians of Samoa and the wisdom of the fale tapu

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so all is well that ends well. 

With Samoa having once again successfully hosted the Pacific Island Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting last week, the Ministers and their high level delegations are making their way back to their home countries with many wonderful memories.

You see one nice thing about Apia is that over the years it has become a very popular destination for regional meetings, seminars and all sorts of business meetings.

And with Samoa currently chairing the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, it’s one of the perks, recognition perhaps of this country for being politically stable, not to mention economic and social achievements. 

Which are things to be proud of. Who wouldn’t, especially if you are Samoan?

But then all good things come to an end. Now back in their homes, visitors to this country will no doubt be telling their friends, families and colleagues about the wonderful time they had in Samoa. 

Although a lot of it for our friends last week would have been here for official business, there would have been some time to enjoy the simple pleasures that Samoa had to offer, our world famous Samoan hospitality for instance.

Come to think of it, during the past few days, this country hosted some pretty high profile visitors. There was Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister, Vaovasamanaia Winston Peters, President of Nauru, Baron Waqa, Prime Minister of Tonga, Akilisi Pohiva, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna and many more. 

And judging from what they have been saying, Samoa has once again outdone herself in terms of hosting. But then there are no surprises there, we are naturally hospitable people and we love the opportunity to roll out the red carpet for everyone.

But now that it is all over our visitors have returned to where they truly belong. Samoa has done her part in trying to address the regional and some of the global challenges we face in the Pacific.

Today, when we find ourselves sitting down to reflect, we see that here in Samoa we have our own challenges.  

That said, it must be acknowledged that Samoa has come a long way. 

As a people and a nation, we have a lot to thank our forefathers. With their God-given wisdom, they navigated the unknown, cracked mysteries only science and experts can explain these days and did so many things the mind can only marvel about. 

They were visionaries and courageous leaders who pioneered the way forward through the difficult times to establish the platform upon which we enjoy Samoa as it is.

As guardians and custodians of this land, culture, language, vision and wisdom, it is our moral duty to take care of it so we can pass it down to the next generation. 

That is our calling, our God-ordained purpose. Indeed, we are the guardians and custodians of this slice of paradise. 

On this Sunday, Samoa is celebrating Fathers day. It is a day that means different things to different people.

Whatever it means to you, we want you to think about the future of this country.  We want you to think about your children, my children and the Samoa they would inherit from us. 

We want to bless them and leave them with a legacy they can be proud of. 

We do not want our children, their children and their children’s children to grow up to beg with an insurmountable amount of foreign debt hanging over their heads, and consequently find themselves second-class citizens in their own country. 

There is no denying the fact the leaders of both the past and today have played a major role in the development of Samoa and for that, we will forever be grateful. 

But let’s be honest with ourselves also because the facts are there for all to see and they are glaringly alarming. The Government has changed so much in Samoa that our forefathers who shed their blood and fought for our independence would probably not even recognise what has become of our Constitution today. 

We’ve seen constitutional changes being made to anything and everything at the whim of a very powerful political machine. From Parliament, villages, families all the way to the Head of State. The poor Constitution has been amended so many times its sacredness is undermined.

The latest one is by far the most serious one of them all. 

It involves the decision by Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s administration to tax the alofa of the Church Ministers who live off the generosity and goodness of our people’s hearts. Today in Samoa, we have two of the biggest pillars in this country at loggerheads over the issue. None of them appear to be budging, which means this confrontation will only escalate and get ugly.

Now lets think about fa’aaloalo and ava fatafata. In ancient Samoa, whenever a village plans a journey that would require them to travel to or through another village, one of the first things they would want to know is the location of the fale tapu (sacred house). The fale tapu was often the house of a senior orator or a paramount chief. It existed as a house of refuge. If anything were to happen during the journey to the travelling party, once they seek refuge at the fale tapu, they are safe.

When Samoa accepted Christianity, that fale tapu became the Church Minister’s house. It is a house that is meant to be respected because Church Ministers are revered; it is no accident that they are referred to as ao fa’alupega in Samoan.

What has changed? What has happened today? How did we reach this point?

When you have a ruling administration that has been so ruthless in action and language, showing absolutely no respect and regard for Samoa’s fale tapu today, what does that tell us about the fa’aaloalo and ava fatafata.

 What message are we sending out to the future generations of this country?

And will anyone find refuge anywhere anymore now that the fale tapu of today has been so callously disrespected?

This is a question for all the fathers of Samoa today. 

Happy Father’s Day Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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