So here we are today. Sometime this morning at the Faleata Sports Complex, the makeshift home of the Parliament of the Independent State of Samoa, 50 representatives elected from all corners of Samoa will step up to take their oaths to serve God, Samoa and her people.
The occasion is a milestone to celebrate. While there are many individual journeys worth reflecting upon, today marks another chapter in our rich history.
It is a unique one in the sense that never before in our history where the administrators of the oath would have had to swear in so many Members of Parliament from one political party.
That’s right, of 50 Members of Parliament taking their oaths today; 47 members are entering Parliament as members of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P). This without an inkling of doubt is an impressive feat achieved under such an environment of peace. It is truly remarkable.
And so today, the members who will make up the next Parliamentary Sitting – providing some of them survive the inevitable court petitions that are being filed as we speak – will vow to do right by God and people, without fear, favour or ill will.
With their right hands on the Bible, they will ask God to help them in their decision making over the next five years.
Today is a time of reflection, a time of serious introspection.
It is a time to think about the terms integrity, justice, dignity, love, compassion, hard work and doing what is best for others.
In this country, there is no denying the fact we talk so much about God this and God that.
But it’s a contradiction.
When we stop to look around at the corruption, the abuse and evil we see all over the place, where do we see God in all of that?
Folks, our confession doesn’t match the reality. What we say doesn’t follow what we do.
That Samoa remains a Parliamentary democracy despite Parliament being a one party state is a juxtaposition of some sort, a contradiction in itself.
Indeed, as we take a new step in our democracy today, we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.
Does our Parliament adequately reflect the will of the people?
Does it not reflect the ability of one political party to manipulate and dictate through changes and amendments in legislations to keep them in power?
Has the law-making powers of Parliament contributed to the creation of a freer, fairer and more just society?
Do we not live in a country where power – and absolute power for that matter - is still concentrated in the hands of a few, with the role of the public limited to only voting in the government every five years?
We’ve said this and we remind here again. Prime Minister Tuilaepa and the H.R.P.P might have won the battle but they are now in a war. The next five years will not be easy for Samoa economically and socially.
Tuilaepa’s most important task is to tackle the struggling economy. With a ballooning foreign debt and the lack of foreign investments, the times demand a tougher message of sacrifice, prudency and cutting down on spending to get us out of the doldrums.
Over the years, we’ve received many warnings from the international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund – among others. Although the government has constantly maintained that the warnings are not to be taken seriously, this should not give us a false sense of hope. The final say comes from the institutions we have to borrow money from to continue the developments.
But know this. A poor economy results in struggling employers. Struggling employers means jobs are fewer. We cannot afford any more job losses in a country that is desperate to employ more people.
Ladies and gentlemen, today we need to talk about shared prosperity. We need to strengthen efforts to reduce poverty, hardships and other economical challenges prohibiting growth.
We need to be realistic about what we are seeing. Look at the growing number of children hawking goods on the streets everyday and every night? How about the beggars on the streets?
Take a drive to the villages and you’ll easily see that the living standards among some members of this country are very poor.
Indeed, sharing wealth and prosperity so that everyone benefits is the defining challenge of our time.
Someone has got to show the way, take the lead in terms of making sure wealth and prosperity are shared by all.
Which brings us to Parliament. We believe it has a major role to play in ensuring prosperity for all.
Members of Parliament should lead by example. Cabinet Ministers, Associate Ministers, Members of Parliament and senior government officials should stop using their positions to advance their private business interests. That’s a start.
You do not need to be a rocket scientist to know there are so many cases of conflicts of interest involving government officials who run private businesses, robbing others of the opportunity that they should’ve been given.
That is greed, pure and simple.
The needs of the people must come first. That’s to say preferential treatment based on bribes, corruption and greed must be done away with once and for all.
None of these issues are easy to resolve, but that is the challenge for the leadership in Parliament that is being sworn in today.
May God help Samoa!