The leaders we want

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, will dissolve Parliament today during a special session at Tuana’imato.

As Parliamentarians meet for the last time, they will no doubt be reflecting on the past five years, with many of them hoping they have done enough to convince voters to bring them back when the country votes in the General Elections on 4 March 2016. 

Not all of them will come back. Come the end of March, some of them will be rejoicing while others will be in tears. 

But now is not the time to think about tears.

As we look back today, we believe there is a lot to reflect upon and celebrate.

We’re talking about the collective work of Parliament and the government during the past five years to improve infrastructure, from roads to transport to telecommunications, water and electricity supply, public and private sector reforms, sports, tourism and many other developments.

Indeed, there is much to be thankful for. 

Yes Parliaments are run by people who are fallible and have weaknesses – our Parliament is no exception. Despite these challenges, however, as a country, we have remained strong. 

So let us acknowledge with gratitude the work of all our Parliamentarians.

From the Speaker of Parliament, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the leader of the Opposition, Palusalue Fa’apo II and all the Members of Parliament, we want to say thank you. 

Thank you for all you have done for Samoa. 

And as we look ahead to the General Elections, let’s pray and believe for the right leaders to be elected, who are not afraid to tackle the issues we believe are holding this country back from reaching where we should be. Not all politicians are leaders. Which brings us back to a column we published on 19 January 2015. Titled “An “idiot” is better than many silent politicians,” we want to share this column with you again. 

We believe what was said then is still very relevant and might even be useful as we sit down to analyse the candidates and who we will be voting for in a few weeks time. Here it is:

 

 “For all his shortcomings – and there are many – you’ve got to admire the courage and conviction of the leader of the Opposition, Palusalue Fa’apo II.

Some people say he is not the brightest politician in Samoa and they might have a point, judging by some of the things he says. He has been called a “fool,” an “idiot” among many other colourful names.

But then come to think of it, who needs bright politicians if all they do is sit in those comfy seats and say nothing about issues that matter?

There is no doubt that there are many bright minded politicians in Parliament today. We are talking about politicians in both the government and the opposition. Many of them are well qualified academically, what the Prime Minister would refer to as “lauia” (big fish).

They also entered Parliament with brilliant resumes and glowing recommendations from all over the world. They no doubt have plenty of good ideas to contribute, when they find the courage to do so. 

The problem is that they don’t. They are either afraid or they just cannot be bothered. And when it comes to issues that matter, like standing up against corruption, wrong-doing and abuse of power and public properties, their silence can be interpreted as indirectly supporting the perpetrators.

And that’s an area of concern.

You see, what’s the point of being brilliant if their lips are sealed when it comes to issues that have a lasting impact on the people who voted them in?

 What’s the point of having the brightest brain when you have no guts to put it to good use?

Now listening to Parliament during the past few sessions, that’s the feeling one gets. In fact, you could almost guess who will speak and what they will say.

What’s disappointing is that many of these brilliant minded politicians have remained dead silent. Yes, their silence has been deafening.

Which makes Palusalue – and maybe a couple of other Opposition M.P’s – the lone voices of reason in a House where the government dominates from beginning to the end.

Make no mistake; in Samoa today, Prime Minister Tuilaepa remains the most experienced, arguably the smartest and the most powerful politician among them all. Sometimes, you can see and hear how he is running circles around his fellow members.

What’s more, if you listen very carefully to the proceedings, there is a certain H.R.P.P strategy they use during sessions involving selected Cabinet Ministers. For example, when Tuilaepa is cornered, you can almost name which of his Cabinet Ministers would come to his rescue. There is a certain order and a direction of attack they deploy and somehow it always works.

And that’s where Palusalue is lacking. Not only does the Tautua Party, in our opinion, lack a strategy in Parliament, Palusalue could be better supported by members of his party.

Apart from his deputy leader, Aeau Peniamina Leavai, you have to wonder where the other members are. This is because the ones who do take the floor either indirectly question Palusalue or end up contradicting him completely.

And that makes Palusalue’s job even harder, given that he is up against such a powerful force in the form of Tuilaepa and the H.R.P.P machine.

But that’s only part of his problem. The bigger challenge, in our view, is leading a group of politicians whom you don’t really know where they belong.

We say this because judging by the things the Tautua Party members have been saying, some of them might as well just cross the floor. 

I’d imagine that if the current law did not prevent crossing the floor from happening without a by-election, a couple of them would have shown their true colours already.

The point is that just when we think Prime Minister Tuilaepa has issues with his ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P), a quick glance across the floor to the Tautua Samoa Party would tell you that their house is not exactly in order either.

Fancy then being in Palusalue’s shoes? Not only is he up against a brick wall in the form of the government, the lack of support and more importantly a coordinated strategy and a plan of attack has left him badly exposed on a number of occasions.

It’s a pity because here we have the leader of the Opposition who is screaming across the floor accusing the government of breaking apart when there are reports right, left and centre of members of his own party raring to join the very same group being accused.

In hindsight though, we understand that it’s not that simple for members of the opposition. There are a lot of factors at play. What with the lure of all those perks in the government and the possibility of ministerial portfolios in the next government – given the fact the H.R.P.P is slowly but surely breaking apart - who wouldn’t be tempted?

Now getting back to Palusalue, it’s interesting that he is possibly the only Member of Parliament who has been kicked out of the House during the current sitting.

That says a lot. You take away the buttering talk from within the House about the Samoan culture and the need for respect that led to the Speaker’s decision, the reality is that Palusalue is the only one who has been daring enough to push the boundaries and ask the questions we all wants answers to.

Call him “stupid” and “idiot” or whatever but I would rather have an “idiot” who is a man of courage, conviction, principle and integrity as a leader than many brilliant-minded politicians who sit on the fence and pretend that everything is okay when this country is slowly rotting at the core because the government has again avoided discussing an issue that is holding us back. What do you think?

 

Have an awesome Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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