The Institution of General Elections - Monotaga (services) and governance

By Le Ulupoao Ata Maiai


It is necessary to state my case. The government of the day recently promoted a Law, which Parliament passed, and the Court interpreted it to disallow a matai to contest the 2016 General Elections in the district of Palauli le Fale-Fa. Would Parliamentary Democracy and Party Politics in Samoa become the catalyst for rogue actions to destabilise village governance?   

Compare the information on the Institution of General Elections to the  “embryo” in God’s creation of things, living. General Elections institutionalise people’s participation as candidates and as voters making their choices in the beginning or at the formation of a Parliament and a Government, well just  like a plant in the early stage of its development. 

Then, remember General Elections is a man-made institution and mentioning it in the same breath with the deeds of one English  King; Nobles and Commoners  in the year 1215 makes the point here on elections a mere  earthy one.

Some 490 years later came the first General Elections contested by Nobles and Commoners: it marked a new epoch for people contesting  in the elections as well as people  making  choices for establishment of a political order in England.

Before the Ballot box, there were instruments of war. The rest of the world has adopted that practice since then.  

Now turn to the next page.

In Samoa, certain snapshot of events in the 1880’s-90’s captured the depth and breath of the workload shouldered by men of great character:  as the precursors to the introduction of General Elections in Samoa. The Leaders of the Royal/Tamaaiga families - Malietoa, Tupua Tamasese, Mataafa and Tuimaleali’ifano - met in a forum with leading Samoan matais  at Mulinuu to forge the  formation of a centralised government  for the first time in Samoa. 

War broke out afterwards; they failed to agree on ways and means for establishing a centralised government but interestingly, the event brought to the fore a movement of ideas shared by Samoan and European to establish  a  MALO (government) for the whole of Samoa. 

 At the same time, the great Robert Louis Stevenson, Author of Treasure Islands, in the company of Mr. Harry Moors, a successful Merchant and exporter of Samoan goods and services - through copra, handicraft and entertainment at the World Fairs in the United States) were quietly canvassing support to  the  introduction of General Elections in Samoa, primarily as a way  to put a stop to the warring epidemic in the country.

Tupua Tamasese Titimaea after the Mulinu’u Forum had retreated to Mauga ma Nuuausala, Leulumoega, appointed a European as Prime Minister and formed a Malo. 

His descendant is the present Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupa Tamasese Efi. Malietoa Talavou was a huge personality having toil in the translation of the Christian Bible from English to Samoan and instigated the Mulinuu Forum to search for a stable  political order in Samoa. 

Malietoa Talavou is the ancestor of Le Tagaloa Pita whom the Court recently ruled not eligible to contest the 2016 General Election. Malietoa Laupepa who claimed Kingship presided over a malo and his descendant; His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II became the Joint-Head of State on the occasion of Samoan Independence in 1962. 

 The Representative Form of Government through Elections was not lost to Stevenson, Moors and by extension to Mataafa Iosefo, a close ally.  

That Mataafa Iosefo was an ex-Priest inevitably attracted the Catholic Church establishment to the Elections pitch but the idea never rose to the level of  national endorsement.   

We know the unifying role that Tuimalealiifano found himself in after the “many years of wars”; and he succeeded and  contributed as “Fautua” on the death of Tupua Tamasese Lealofi in the German colonial rule. 

Taimua and Faipule (an advisory body and a pioneer in representational government) moved the electioneering idea to a different platform. 

Together with the thought-processes that underpinned the Malo/government by representation of Tupua Tamasese Titimaea amd Malietoa Laupepa, these early and raw ideas for a centralised malo developed to a point where the recommendations of the Berlin Treaty were relatively easy to accept by the population of Samoa.

   Today, the conduct of electioneering is shaped by ways and means deployed by the Political Party. Human Rights Political Party (H.R.P.P) and the Tautua Party (T.P) dominate the local scene. 

Because the Institution of General Elections make it possible to establish Democracy in Samoa, the historical experiences that made it possible for our ancestors to build a sovereign state is a fair reference in times of trouble. (One could argue that a Totalitarian state, Oligarchy and communist states do not hold General Elections.)  

There is a Law passed not long ago in the Samoan Parliament which makes the eligibility of a Samoan Matai to contest the General Elections, conditioned on monotaga (services).          

In our analysis of the matter, it makes sense to pay attention to known experiences after all you don’t have to re-invent the wheel to make choices on a well-known subject like this one.   

Politics a la Elections and Democracy are universal properties designed by thinkers and acted on by practitioners in preserving the status quo. The great man, Aristotle said that democracy is one solution to the problems of order; political science is the master science and preached ‘polity’ or mixed government - aristocratic and democratic principles - as true democracy. 

If democracy is one way to order then there are other roads such as totalitarianism, communism, oligarchy, fascism, socialism-and God prohibit, ISIS.  Communism once boasted Lenin “is democracy with electrification”. 

Somewhere inside those ideologies are shades of “services or monotaga” because these  are the cogs  that turn the wheel of statecraft. 

When Tupua Tamasese, Malietoa, Mataafa and Tuimalealiifano accepted democracy, it is almost certain that they did not have in mind to make “monotaga” a condition for contesting the General Elections in Samoa. 

But we have the rights and options either to be or not to be  apologists for them.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is known for his pragmatism. He has lived an epic career in politics. It is not hard to understand his political profile due to his  exposure in the printed and visual media; great experiences from international and domestic duties;  excellent educational background; political winner; a Marist Old Boy;  sheer energy; a devout Catholic, family man and an active Matai all of which have produced   extra-ordinary qualities of  Leadership in him. 

He has steered the HRPP, by public perception, to  win and keep political power at all cost.

 A Political Party live off on the   peculiar culture and doctrine that its managers and operators chose as guidelines. Self interests/preservation for the party are not sacrificed if you know what I mean.  

The doctrine of utilitarianism or opportunism spurned on by the liberals like John Mills infiltrated party politics and public service in England many centuries ago and  probably up to this day and age in England. 

There are the extreme activities of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) to co-opt public servants, police and military and the judiciary as active and quiet members of the party. The Nazi Party’s mission  was  to create a one party dictatorship based on totalitarian and autocratic ideology of national socialism. And of course there are the culture and doctrines in the Republican Party vs Democratic Party  in USA; the National Party vs the Labour Party in New Zealand; the Conservative Party vs the Labour Party in Great Britain  and so on.

The HRPP’s monotaga has all the trappings of a doctrine.  It would appear that the “doctrine of Monotaga” has relevance to ultra-liberal application of the doctrines mentioned above. 

To put it simple, there is a  HRPP village/district of which monotaga (services) as  a defined activity precluded the rights  of paramount Chiefs like Le Tagaloa Pita in the Palauli le Fale-Fa Constituency  to contest the 2016 elections. That definition does not take into account the services associated with the  nature of matai hierarchy;  traditional culture, customary protocol; division of labour  in connection  to  income distribution  in the  economies of the   villages of Sili and Gautavai.  All of these activities involve services that would ultimately involve money donations and in kind contributions by Le Tagaloa Pita.    

Here, doctrine is an  instrument designed to drive   the influence of party politics on a particular  village  in  a pervasive manner. 

 If you stretch the logic behind the  “doctrine of monotaga,” it leads to the Manifesto of the HRPP Party. Among the high-lights are the management of macro-economic and fiscal policies for the governed in Samoa.  Winning this election is a must for HRPP; and organised bloc of voters in the villages set the platform for managing the electioneering activities of the party.  It smacks of  Machiavellian push for power: rule according to the rules or  destroy and smash all opposition. And as experiences would show in Democracies like Australia, USA, there is a rise in glory-seeking; power -usurp; nihilsim in constituency and national politics as a result. Water-gate is the famous example. But there are two larger questions here in connection with governance as the end of General Elections.

One, the economic capacity of our nation: are we economically secured today compared to the economic situation in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s? 

The construction sector is the main mover in the GDP growth under the HRPP rule.  Financial institutions like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank to name a few have provided grants and loans as budget support to government  and these have fuelled the activities in the Construction sector. 

Roads, bridges, electrification, sky-rise etc are loan monies in concrete and steel.  In contrast to the democratic rule under the tutelage of Prime Ministers Fiame Mataafa Mulinuu II, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi IV and Tupuola Efi: Agriculture is the basis for its international trade and the spinoffs from these activities were  the main mover in GDP growth. There was a surplus in the government budget when Prime Minister Mataafa left office in 1969.

 By the time Tupuola Efi came into power, the world economy was going through troubling times   as the result of the escalating prices of fossil fuel; regional instability and wars; drastic drops in the prices of commodities (cocoa, copra)  on the world market  and  radical thinking   to change   Development Co-operation designed by Foreign Ministries and Development  organisations in the world which ally aid resources  with security interests. In a paper prepared by Treasury in 1979, it stated that for every tala earned from exports, 70 sene went to pay the cost of imported fossil fuel. Taro export was recorded at 20 million tala  in one year. Remittances from other Democratic countries trickled like a tap, drying up.  For the Tupuola Efi government to borrow from the World Bank etc, it must adhere to many conditions.

  All of these conditions meant the public service should down-size to half it’s membership; cause for freeze of pay of public servants; and structural adjustment which meant that the road works/maintenance; joinery, etc were privatised under an outsourcing system. 

The biggest blow was the dismantling of the Produce Marketing Division and the Copra Board whereas structural reforms to these entities would have done the job because these entities provide valuable support to the farming community and the whole of Samoa. 

Conditions for reforms from the outside interests created instability and loss of office for Tupuola Efi government. But kudos to Tupuola Efi and his Cabinet, they acted responsibly in navigating their mandate from the voters through the institution of General Elections to govern with resources at their disposal. 

Had the overseas Financial Institutions were more forthcoming in support as they do now by lending millions of tala to Tupuola Government the cocoa and copra industries would have been saved...And the capacity for Samoa then to service its loans is the same as it is now. Samoa did not default in its loan payments then.  The information in a recent Editorial (Samoa Observer) by the great Savea Sano Malifa who was presented in this pivotal  time constituted the truth.

The economic capacity of our nation, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele, show sound and clever management of fiscal policies/measures, coupled by the consistent use of macro-economic policies in response to needs in the public and private sectors. 

All are designed to help our people. He has made public his support to business venture fuelled by innovative ideas using local raw materials/resources for exports. Our business venture, Health Sea Food Export Ltd, which spawned and harvests sea cucumbers for the local and overseas market is receiving his support. Like-wise and in a much bigger scale, his government support  to the export drive launched by a Samoan, Taimalie Charlie Ah liki demonstrate the relevance of his thinking to stabilise economic security. 

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