It comes down to this. With the swearing in ceremony for Members of Parliament now a distant memory and the excitement, anxiety created by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s selection of Cabinet Ministers slowly fading, it’s fair to say that the work of Parliament and government has been cut out for the next five years.
Barring a major upset in election-related petitions before the Supreme Court; it’s safe to assume that the Cabinet Ministers and the Associate Ministers we have seen so far will be the leaders of government in the next term.
Last Thursday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa added the final piece of the puzzle with the announcement of his 13 Cabinet Ministers, completing his new look Cabinet.
And with that, it is time to get on with work for there is much to be done. Apart from the noise created by the glaring omission of former Deputy Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, there seems to be wide acceptance of the Members of Parliament awarded with Cabinet portfolios.
Speaking at the swearing in ceremony on Thursday, Tuilaepa reiterated that it is important to find the right balance and ensure that those who are chosen are suitable to support the work of each Cabinet Minister’s portfolio.
“There are many ways to serve our country - as a Cabinet Minister, Associate Minister or through many of the vitally important parliamentary committees,” Tuilaepa said.
“In selecting the associate ministers, it was again very important to make sure that our choices are representative of a wide and varied group, while also acknowledging personal attributes, skills and experience.”
Overall however, Tuilaepa highlighted the important contribution by every member.
“As this is the first time we have such an overwhelming majority in Parliament, it’s even more important that the work of government follows the guidelines of good governance,” he said.
“We have to check each other and make sure that what is appropriate and good for Samoa is what takes precedence.
“We are all human, so Government is never going to be perfect. Therefore it’s important that we are not hesitant to employ all measures of good governance so we remain accountable and on track with our plans for the development of the country and the improvement of livelihoods for all.”
Well that’s reassuring, isn’t it? Especially coming from Prime Minister Tuilaepa at the beginning of a new Parliamentary term.
You see good governance allows an environment where Members of Parliament and leaders are able to do what is right and make the right decisions. Indeed, making choices and having to account for them in an open and transparent way encourages honest consideration of the choices facing those in the governance processes.
Some time not so long ago, this column was asked the question of “what makes a good leader – from the perspective of the media.” We said then that the biggest challenge of today is finding leaders who mean what they say – not one who just says things for the sake of saying it.
As this new crop of Parliamentarians begin their work, we believe what we said then could not be more relevant.
That’s to say that a good leader - as our new MPs ought to be - is a person who walks the talk, it’s someone who is serious about implementing the many wonderful plans and intentions we have. It’s about monitoring, enforcing the laws and policies that are in place so the people who are intended to benefit reap the rewards.
It is no secret that we have many wonderful laws drafted and passed by some of the most intelligent minds God has gifted this country.
But what good are these laws if they are not monitored, obeyed and enforced? Don’t they then simply become a waste of time, energy and money?
We don’t need to tell you about what’s happening in this country today. You read about the grim reality in the newspapers, hear about it on the radio and as if that’s not enough for you to be convinced, the pictures on TV tell a story.
Indeed we live in a very challenging time, one that is defined by climate uncertainty, hardship, lack of opportunities, fear, poverty, terror, violence and threats of all kinds.
What do these things tell us?
They speak of a leadership that has been found wanting. And we’re not just talking about governments here. We’re talking about the churches, villages and even in our homes. These are the pillars that make Samoa what it is.
Lately, a lot of corruption has been openly exposed in the government machinery. This is despite our government’s promise of “accountability, transparency and good governance.”
There is no accountability or transparency in collusion and efforts made to protect the culprits. Singling out individuals who speak up against such wrongdoing is not good governance at all. If anything, that is legitimizing and encouraging corruption.
Ladies and gentlemen; let’s be reminded that corruption doesn’t change from the bottom up; it changes from the top down. Which means that unless our leaders change their ways, corruption will continue to destroy the moral fibre of our nation.
And one of the reasons why corruption thrives is because we keep saying all the right things and we stop there. We need to do more. When we talk about accountability, we need to hold our leaders to account over what they promise. If they promise good governance, we expect good governance, nothing more, nothing less.
Transparency is not presenting feel good numbers to tick the boxes while hiding the grim reality of life. We believe transparency is when leaders are brave enough to tell the truth, confront the reality – even if it hurts and reflects badly on them.
In other words, good governance requires honest leaders.
Today more than ever, Samoa needs honest, God-fearing leaders who inspire positive change and are not afraid of doing the right thing. They need to be brave, fight for what is right. They need to be courageous.
Let’s pray that over the new crop of leaders in Parliament as well as the new line up of Cabinet and Associate Ministers. God bless.