The Prime Minister delivered this speech on Thursday last week at his ‘Palemia’ book launch at Samoa House in Auckland,New Zealand.
Samoa became independent in 1962. It was the very first trust territory of the United Nations to do so, after much pressure from our leaders at the same time.
At first the United Nations opposed the idea as it did not want to be faced with problems of failed states at the early stage of its existence.
Samoa’s insistence eventually changed the UN’s mindset. It decided to use Samoa as a test case for many other trust territories with similar aspirations.
Since the 1st World War, Samoa had been administered by the Government of New Zealand on a mandate from the League of Nations and then subsequently by its successor the United Nations.
New Zealand itself was a young colony of Great Britain and its leaders were trying to grabble with so many domestic problems of nation building not the least of which were the not so friendly reminders by the Maoris of the their outstanding land claims.
And so the Government of New Zealand did not see anything wrong in sending to Samoa administrators who were soldiers, highly decorated for their courage and ability to shoot and kill, but who were totally lacking in the art of governing.
Our people at the time had been governed by our own complex system of government by the Matais (chiefs) who were democratically elected by their members of the extended family – a system that evolved over thousands of years of our existence.
When he Kiwis landed in 1914 immediately after W.W.I, our cultural based system of governing our people appeared too sophisticated to their simple minds.
Regular executive sessions of the village councils of Matais to decide on the major economic, social, judicial and development issues at the rural villages were seen as lazy and wasteful practices by our Matais.
For 48 years to 1962, a love-hate relationship developed but did not stop our leaders vying to understand the Westminster style of Parliamentary Democracy adapting such means that blended well with our customary practices.
For instance, only the chiefs (matais) can stand as candidates in any general elections. And Party Politics and Universal Suffrage were to be introduced over time.
What I have said up to now, provides a useful lead up background to the contents of the Memoir we are launching tonight.
Samoa is now the most stable democracy in our small corner of the vast Pacific Ocean.
Our Political Party – the HRPP won its first General Elections in 1982 with a majority of one seat in Parliament. Then in 8 subsequent general elections of 1985, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016, our Political Party continued to receive strong support of our voters.
In the last elections of 2016, our HRPP won 47 seats out of the 50 seat Parliament – the remaining three are independents. Because the Opposition Party was voted out as well by the voters we in the ruling HRPP decided to create our own home grown opposition by tasking 19 of HRPP backbenchers together with 3 Independents to become the official HRPP created opposition in Parliament today.
Winning 9 successive general elections and now we have no opposition in Parliament by the will of our voters is a rare achievement which have created strong interest on why our people continue to support our Government. In reality, we do not have any special secrets. The HRPP has just simply continued to deliver on its promises over the years. We are branded as the ‘Party of Doers’ and Party of the People. Party politics has certainly put to rest the born to rule myth of the past.
Dr Peter Swain was so interested in the stability of the HRPP led government in Samoa that he approached me several years ago and suggested that we write a Memoir on my experiences as leader of government. Such experiences should be useful for posterity.
I said my problem was that a memoir is often written when the author is the only overstayed alive, and the rest of the subjects he writes about are either already safely confined away to the spirit world or suffered loss of memory. With this memoir most of the characters are still very much alive and still kicking. However history is history and Samoans are born politicians. And a valued asset of the Samoan Orators is to smile at our own weaknesses.
I would like to pay special tribute to Dr Peter Swain for his endless energy in putting together this project despite the challenges posed. He has to fly over to Samoa regularly to continue our conversations, or arrange flash appointments when I transit through Auckland.
Without Peter we would never have gathered here tonight in the cold. What needed to be said had already been adequately addressed by the earlier speakers.
In our world of Samoan politics many young aspiring politicians have sought my advice. One I can recall told me he was a farmer, married and his wife and three young children were living in New Zealand. He decided to come back to Samoa to pursue his luck at the next General Election when he would stand as a candidate from his village in Savaii.
I said to him your rightful duty is to go back to New Zealand and take care of your wife and children.
When the children have completed their education and you are 70 years old, you can then afford to become irresponsible and stupid to become a politician in Samoa. He ignored my advice and competed without success in the last 3 elections. I have seen him walking around and talking to himself.
I thank you all for your attention.
There will be another volume in Samoan when I finally retire from politics in 50 years time.
God bless you all.