For the sake of democracy and a functioning Parliamentary system in one-party state Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

On Wednesday last week, one of the most interesting developments in the local political sphere in recent memory emerged. 

It happened when the news broke that a new political party had been formed and registered with the Office of the Electoral Commissioner. 

In a one-party state where the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) has become the absolute holder and controller of all political power, the idea that another political party has arrived on the scene is exciting to say the least. It’s a breath of fresh air to be honest.

It’s too early to say whether they have the potential to do well. It’s also way too early to even make comparisons with some of the parties that have dared ventured against the H.R.P.P. in the past. 

Keep in mind that when the story broke on Wednesday, there wasn’t a lot of information about the group. All we were told was that the name of the group is the Samoa First Political Party (S.F.P.P.). Then we were told by the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalo Matthew Lemisio, that the Party’s Secretary is Feagaima’alii Bruce To’omalatai. 

He wasn’t immediately available to talk to us then. 

But another party member and prominent lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, left us in no doubt that these guys mean business.

 “This is a new political party that has been formed, prompted by our beloved people in the villages as they become informed of the law and their rights, they force the move which is now the new party,” she wrote in an email to the Samoa Observer. 

“I understand the members are working on its manifesto at the moment. One hopes the new party discourages electoral bribing and hopefully voters will vote on issues and not how much Vailima or money one gets.”

On the issue of bribery, corruption and election fraud, it’s hard to disagree with Unasa. It has been the downfall of the election system in Samoa since the start and despite the Government’s best efforts to try and address the issue; it doesn’t look like much has changed. But then that’s politics for you, isn’t it? Whether it’s Samoa or anywhere else in the world, corruption and bribery are part and parcel of any election.

Still it’s good to pray and hope that one day, yes one fine day, we might be able to move away from it and have a truly free and fair election.

Now on page 2 of the newspaper you are reading today, S.F.P.P.’s Secretary Feagaima’ali’i opens up about the motives behind the establishment of the party and what they hope to achieve as the country gears up for the 2021 General Election. We encourage you to read and be informed.

In the meantime, the arrival of the new party is obviously not lost on Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the man who has been proudly lording over the H.R.P.P. for close to 20 years since he became their Party Leader.

Asked if he was concerned that the new party could be a threat given they have close to a hundred members already and growing, Tuilaepa said no. 

“This is what we wanted, to have some other parties to make the game a bit more interesting. It’s a bit dull when there is only one so it’s good to have an array of parties, it makes it a bit more colourful.”

Well he’s right and we couldn’t agree more.

But Tuilaepa had a bone to pick with the new party.

“So why have they called themselves Samoa First? Are they the first party (in Samoa)?” he asked.

Told that the party’s goal is to put Samoa first, Tuilaepa said that’s what all parties want. 

“There’s no party that is established in Samoa and yet they put Great Britain or Papua New Guinea first. Maybe that is their method to attract supporters?”

Tuilaepa added that it is misleading to use the words “Samoa First” in the name.

 “When we talk about the first in Samoa, that’s the H.R.P.P. You see when it comes to protecting Samoa’s traditions, culture as well as our customary lands, the H.R.P.P. is number one.”

 “The first point for any new party is for the name to be believable. There is New Zealand First, Fiji First so it seems to me that these guys have copied them. They should have sat down and picked a proper name to reflect their vision for future developments when they come in.”

 “So they need to reconsider their name. Maybe they didn’t think about it but who knows next week they might. What do you call the number nine in rugby? Halfback? Maybe they should call it Samoa halfback?”

Classic Tuilaepa politics, isn’t it?

In Samoa today, it’s undeniable that Prime Minister Tuilaepa is a very powerful man. In fact, he is undoubtedly the most powerful man in this country presiding over a party that has the ability to make any changes they want wherever, however and whenever. 

That party by the way dominates Parliament. Of 50 Members of Parliament, 47 of them are under Tuilaepa’s absolute control. 

It is obvious politics in Samoa needs a breath of fresh air and some new faces and the arrival of Samoa First Political Party is a good start. 

Let’s hope there are more parties in the pipeline who will find the courage and conviction to stand up for the sake of a proper democracy and functioning Parliamentary system.

What do you think? 

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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