What are they scared of?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

And so once again, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, has rejected a call to allow Samoans residing overseas to vote from where they are.

In response to a plan by the Tautua Samoa Party to allow Samoans living abroad to vote during the General Elections, like the stubborn leader we know can be at times, Prime Minister Tuilaepa has thrown up his arms up in the air declaring that as long as he is the Prime Minister, that would never happen.

As if that wasn’t harsh enough for Samoans overseas who perhaps thought that there is a remote possibility, Tuilaepa even had time to give them orders.

“If you want to vote, you get on the plane and come here,” Tuilaepa said. “We are not stopping our people living overseas from voting but they have to get on the plane to do that.”

Goodness he makes it sounds so easy, doesn’t he? 

But what is he really afraid of?

 “If we open this up, people living here will lose the power to decide for themselves,” he said. “The country would be governed from overseas because there are a lot more Samoans abroad.”

Ah huh, I see. It’s all about power isn’t? Never mind fairness, equality and human rights, it’s about control and power. But then why should that surprise us.

Now Tuilaepa continues: “Doing this is an insult to people living in Samoa. It tells us that people like us who are living here are stupid and governing the country should be given to those living overseas.”

Really? Who said anything about anyone being stupid? How does exercising a perfectly legitimate human right become stupid? 

“There should never be an opportunity to allow this,” Tuilaepa said.

“They can go and serve the government of the country they live in but when it comes to government of Samoa, leave that to the people living here. 

“If they want to be part of it, they can come and live here for three years and vote … they should make sacrifices like doing monotaga (village contribution).”

Now let’s pause here for a minute. Let’s think about that word “sacrifice” for a moment. The undisputed truth is this. Remittances and Samoa go hand-in-hand. The reality is that remittances are the backbone of this country’s existence. Without which, we would be in deep trouble.

Indeed, if those millions of tala sent back from relatives and friends living outside of Samoa to care for their families here were to stop suddenly, many people in this country would not be able to cope with the demands of everyday living. That’s because the cost of living has become ridiculously expensive while household incomes have not improved by much, if there has been any improvement at all during the past couple of years.

So remittances – in some cases - become a matter of life and death. 

And that doesn’t just apply to members of the public. Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s government knows very well that without remittances and generosity of Samoans overseas, this government would have defaulted on a number of its financial obligations a long time ago.   

Think about this: how would many people in Samoa cope without remittances?

What would life for many Samoans be like without the generosity of their families and friends in New Zealand, Australia, United States, Europe and elsewhere around the world?

Keep in mind, these people do much more than send money. They also send new cars, fridges, TV sets, food, containers of furniture and in some cases building materials for new homes.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what I call sacrifice, isn’t it?

You see it’s not that they are loaded with cash and material wealth. 

We, the people living in Samoa, should be mighty grateful because the reality for most of our overseas relatives is a lot different than the rosy picture of people living on the ‘land of milk and honey’ as we’ve been told over the years.

For many of them, they are struggling to get by. On top of that, they too have obligations to the countries they live in. That includes taxes owed, children to feed, clothe and schooled, bills to pay and dreams to be fulfilled.

And yet we find that they sacrifice a lot of that simply to ensure their families in Samoa don’t go without – and to an extent Tuilaepa’s government remains afloat. 

It’s a sacrifice that should not be taken for granted. It should be properly acknowledged, appreciated and reciprocated.

In the past, every time the issue is brought up; there are people who say that because these brothers and sisters live outside Samoa, they should not be entitled to anything – including the right to vote from where they are based during our elections.

It’s true that it is their choice to live overseas and perhaps by doing so forfeit the benefits of being a resident in Samoa – including voting. 

But is it really their choice? Would they have shifted to these countries if Samoa offered greener pastures? We doubt it very much.

The irony is that for our people living overseas, it doesn’t matter how many thousands – or millions - of tala they send back home to Samoa. If they want to vote in the election, they would have to pay the airfares to come here to do that. This is despite the fact that through technology that’s now available here, the job can easily be done.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are talking about Samoans born in Samoa. In many cases, they are matai who are looking after their families – frequenting the airwaves between wherever they are and Samoa every time a fa’alavelave comes up. They still serve their monotaga (contribution) in the villages. They remain part of the church in the village through their matafale to which they contribute to week in and week out.

So why is the government so stubborn that it would not move to allow what seems to be the fairest and most logical thing to do when it comes to voting?

You will have your answer.

If our opinion were sought though, we’d say the truth is fairly easy to see. 

Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his government are scared of being voted out by Samoans overseas. 

But then they should have nothing to be scared about if they know deep down inside they have done their job. 

What do you think?

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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