This is a true story.
Yesterday morning the writer received a phone call from a member of the local media – his name will not be revealed here for obvious reasons – asking for a comment on the claim by a matai of Afega village disputing the validity of his Gatoaitele title.
The matai in question is the village pulenu’u (mayor) Fata Saifoloi who, with others from the same village, had apparently gone on TV where they attacked the Lands and Titles Court for allowing the title to be registered without their consent.
They insisted the writer and his family had no right to the title in question, among a number of platitudes including some homemade fabrications, and even outright fibs.
That was yesterday.
About two months ago, on 28 June, a letter to the editor arrived.
Titled “Samoa, the Samoa Observer and the truth”, and signed by Mebahel Raguel, it arrived in the middle of the unfortunate incident that happened and obviously it was inspired by it.
It was a sad time for everyone here at the Samoa Observer, and especially the writer who was being called all sorts of despicable names by certain members of the public who looked as if they had been living in boredom for such a long time, so that they were now in an rage as if they were aiming to tear him apart.
Those were sad times for us here anyway. To think that we were living in a country the world had been led to believe was peaceful, loving Samoa and yet right now, the anger was so pervasively relentless it was suffocating, so that there was really nothing else to do but sit down and cry.
In his letter though, Mebahel Raguel, was straight to the point.
He wrote: “There has been a lot of criticism against the Samoa Observer over their reporting of the death of a transgender who was found dead and hanging from the rafters of a church hall – an alleged suicide or possible homicide?”
He went on: “Some went as far as calling on the public to boycott the Samoa Observer for making a ‘mistake.’
“Even PM Tuilaepa joined the masses to take a swipe at the Samoa Observer – it was an opportunity to get back at them for their persistence in reporting government corruption.”
He also wrote: “Well, I saw no mistake in the Samoa Observer article that reported the alleged suicide. The majority were using words such as ‘ethics’ and ‘morals’ in their critique – I don’t think most of you people understand what those words mean.
“What is so unethical about the Samoa Observer reporting the Truth and having the photo included to back up the story?”
We have no idea.
Now let’s make one point clear here.
The only reason Mebahel Raguel’s letter is used here is that it touches on the name Gatoaitele, when it asks: “How many times did Samoa Observer Editors Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa and Mata’afa Keni Lesa, publish stories about poverty, suicide and government corruption?
“And how many times did P.M. Tuilaepa and the people deny the existence of these social problems in our society? Hundreds of times.”
He went on: “We, the people of Samoa are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites. Every time something like this or a ‘mistake’ happens we abuse our culture and religious beliefs, to cover up the Truth and yet only the Truth will set us free.
“Samoa with its tiny population is ranked one of the highest in the world when it comes to suicide per capita and either first or second in the South Pacific region – and the numbers are still rising.
“But it’s funny how people quickly attacked Samoa Observer over a picture published on its front page but completely miss the issue altogether – the increasing suicide rate here in Samoa.”
And then down below he made that one request that would just not go away, when he asked: “I want Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa to tell me why he apologized for telling the Truth.”
And then he added: “He did not need to apologize as these so called offended fools seem to be more offended with the raw Truth than the photo because of their guilty consciences.”
That was his opinion anyway.
But apologized the writer, Gatoaitele, did. He apologized to the whole country, here in Samoa and on Radio Samoa, in New Zealand. In fact, he apologized to whoever was willing to listen, including the whole world.
In the end, he found that he no longer had the strength nor the inclination to try and apologize for anything. Especially since he knew we had done nothing wrong for which an apology was warranted, and yet deep down he also knew that an apology was indeed inevitable.
Anyway, that was when the Letter to the Editor from Samoa’s Man of Letters, Tofaeono Misatauveve Joseph Hollywood, that arrived on 14 July 2016 took over.
Headed “Respect our monarchies, culture”, it was about differences of opinions between Le Tagaloa Pita and his village of Sili on the topic of Monotaga, or contribution to one’s village upkeep.
“No palagi would understand what Le Tagaloa Pita and Sili village are saying. Only the people of Samoa hold their culture so, so dear to their hearts.”
He goes on to say: “Of course Malietoa Tanumafili did not have to have a monotaga. Of course Tuiatua does not have to have a monotaga. Of course Tonumaipe’a, Gato’aitele, Vaetamasoali’i and Le Tagaloa, do not have to have monotaga.
“These are Samoa’s paramount chiefs. They do not have to contribute to a monotaga because they give more than monotaga every time they come to their village.”
He writes: “Respect (them). Please do not allow the palagi democracy to also destroy our culture.”
And so, in response to Mebahel Raguel’s request - “I want Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa to tell me why he apologized for telling the Truth” – the writer says: “That is why.”
He explains that he had apologized not because he told the Truth, but because in doing so it was possible for growing anger to be defused, and in the end peace was assured and then maintained.
Sure, “he did not need to apologize….”, he said, but with “mutual respect” derived from the core essence of peace that is found irrefutably within the Samoan culture, it is possible that any problem – big or small – can be resolved amicably and peacefully.
With an apology.
Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.