After 24 years the government wakes up and Samoa Observer is still there

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Let’s start with a couple of questions.

First: Why is it that it looks as if certain Cabinet Ministers of the government of Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, are in the habit of stopping now and then to look, as if there is something out there in the past that is giving their consciences sleepless days and sleepless nights?

Second: Don’t they know that those who stop and then turn around to look behind them, is bound to turn into a pillar of salt just as that which had happened to God’s faithful servant Lota, in the distance past? 

We are asking these questions because on the front page of the Samoa Observer of 8 February 2018, the story titled “Govt. uncovers lapse, requires newspapers to register at Court,” was published.

What the story said, was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papali’i John Taimalelagi, who explained that the law in question has been in place since 1993.

So why did the Ministry of Justice wait all that time to implement this law? 

Asked for an explanation, Papali’i said they only recently uncovered the lapse during a review of the Acts mandated under the Ministry. 

Lapse? But then how was that ever possible? 

Well, it was 24 years ago, and that way Papali’i could not have known, since he was not around at the time. 

As for us here at the Samoa Observer though, we know. 

We know that it all started with the British Law of Criminal Libel that the late Prime Minister, Tofilau Eti Alesana, and others had put in place in their quest to put the Samoa Observer out of business, and its editor in jail.

Later though when Tofilau passed away, the Supreme Court ruled that the trial should be discontinued, and it was.  

Now 24 years later, Papali’i came across a broken box somewhere there in the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, he saw that a folder in there had been eaten into by cockroaches so he picked it up, and then when he opened it he saw that the title on the folder was barely legible, and it read: “Newspapers and Printers Act 1993.” 

That was when he took the folder to his Minister and he told him: We have uncovered a lapse that requires newspapers to register at Court, so let’s act on it right away. 

Lapse! 

A 24 year old lapse! 

Who cares about ancient lapses anymore in this day and age, where global digital navigation of the Internet is quite simple, so that even finding Ole Palemia is also therefore simple, since it is done with a flick of the mouse instead of wasting your time and mental energy, depending on slow-moving, lousy newspapers.

Insisted Papali’i: “My role as C.E.O. is to review acts mandated under M.J.C.A.”

He also said: “I came cross the required registration for all newspapers as indicated under the Newspapers and Printers Act 1993 and yet it has never been implemented in the past.”

But why? Why did those jokers in the past ignore this very important law as if they owned it? 

Why?

Explained Papali’i: “This is part of M.J.C.A.’s Legislative Compliance and we are required to review and uphold the Acts mandated under our Ministry.” 

Well done!

In a letter to all newspapers, Papali’i informed: “Pursuant to sections 3 and 4 of the Newspapers and Printers Act 1993 (“the Act”), notice is hereby given to all newspapers in circulation in Samoa as of 7 February, 2018, that no person shall print or publish a newspaper unless it is registered with the Registrar of the Supreme Court.”

He also revealed: “The fee is a $100.” 

Now our final questions are: What about Television, Radio and the Internet? Are they not also registered with the Registrar of the Supreme Court?

After all, they are also didactically educational forms of devices that allow anyone - and everyone - who is keen enough to communicate, inform and educate just as newspapers do, so why are they not registered?

We are asking this question because when the Newspapers and Printers Act 1993 was adopted, Television and Radio were not subjected to any legal Acts of Government, as it had been with newspapers.

 At that time, the government threatened to terminate the Samoa Observer’s business license, apparently because someone - or some people up there - did not like what the paper had published about them, so that the paper was practically fending off one defamation lawsuit after another, it was sheer madness.  

Still, come to think about it now, I suppose it was all part of running a newspaper in our small corner of the big, big world. 

No one is perfect. 

We know that.

We all make mistakes. 

We know that too.

So that thankfully for all of us, there is goodness in everyone. I suppose that is why laws such as the Newspapers and Printers Act 1993 are made, and I suppose they should keep on making them.

So let’s hope there will be no more silly “lapses” from now on.

Indeed, let’s pray that the New Year up ahead is the beginning of a new life for those families out there in the villages, who are in desperate need of their fair share of prosperity and peace of mind.  

There are many of them out there, so that I do believe that everyone who can, should feel it is one’s responsibility to reach out, to help. 

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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